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Unsealed Court Docs Reveal How U.S. Secretly Forced Google to Hand Over Email Data of Journalist Jacob Appelbaum as Part of WikiLeaks Investigation

In Appelbaum, Archive, DOJ, Google, Surveillance, USA, WikiLeaks on June 20, 2015 at 8:12 PM

06/20/2015

Ryan Gallagher/TheIntercept:

Newly unsealed court documents obtained by The Intercept reveal the Justice Department won an order forcing Google to turn over more than one year’s worth of data from the Gmail account of Jacob Appelbaum (pictured above), a developer for the Tor online anonymity project who has worked with WikiLeaks as a volunteer. The order also gagged Google, preventing it from notifying Appelbaum that his records had been provided to the government.

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The surveillance of Appelbaum’s Gmail account was tied to the Justice Department’s long-running criminal investigation of WikiLeaks, which began in 2010 following the transparency group’s publication of a large cache of U.S. government diplomatic cables.

According to the unsealed documents, the Justice Department first sought details from Google about a Gmail account operated by Appelbaum in January 2011, triggering a three-month dispute between the government and the tech giant. Government investigators demanded metadata records from the account showing email addresses of those with whom Appelbaum had corresponded between the period of November 2009 and early 2011; they also wanted to obtain information showing the unique IP addresses of the computers he had used to log in to the account.

The Justice Department argued in the case that Appelbaum had “no reasonable expectation of privacy” over his email records under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Rather than seeking a search warrant that would require it to show probable cause that he had committed a crime, the government instead sought and received an order to obtain the data under a lesser standard, requiring only “reasonable grounds” to believe that the records were “relevant and material” to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Google repeatedly attempted to challenge the demand, and wanted to immediately notify Appelbaum that his records were being sought so he could have an opportunity to launch his own legal defense. Attorneys for the tech giant argued in a series of court filings that the government’s case raised “serious First Amendment concerns.” They noted that Appelbaum’s records “may implicate journalistic and academic freedom” because they could “reveal confidential sources or information about WikiLeaks’ purported journalistic or academic activities.”

However, the Justice Department asserted that “journalists have no special privilege to resist compelled disclosure of their records, absent evidence that the government is acting in bad faith,” and refused to concede Appelbaum was in fact a journalist. It claimed it had acted in “good faith throughout this criminal investigation, and there is no evidence that either the investigation or the order is intended to harass the … subscriber or anyone else.”

Google’s attempts to fight the surveillance gag order angered the government, with the Justice Department stating that the company’s “resistance to providing the records” had “frustrated the government’s ability to efficiently conduct a lawful criminal investigation.”

The Justice Department wanted to keep the surveillance secret largely because of an earlier public backlash over its WikiLeaks investigation. In early 2011, Appelbaum and other WikiLeaks volunteers’ – including Icelandic parlimentarian Birgitta Jonsdottirwere notified by Twitter that the Justice Department had obtained data about their accounts. This disclosure garnered widepread news coverage and controversy; the government says in the unsealed court records that it “failed to anticipate the degree of  damage that would be caused” by the Twitter disclosure and did not want to “exacerbate this problem” when it went after Appelbaum’s Gmail data.

The court documents show the Justice Department said the disclosure of its Twitter data grab “seriously jeopardized the [WikiLeaks] investigation” because it resulted in efforts to “conceal evidence” and put public pressure on other companies to resist similar surveillance orders. It also claimed that officials named in a subpeona ordering Twitter to turn over information were “harassed” after a copy was published by Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald at Salon in 2011.

The only specific evidence of the alleged harassment cited by the government is an email that was sent to an employee of the U.S. Attorney’s office that purportedly said: “You guys are fucking nazis trying to controll [sic] the whole fucking world. Well guess what. WE DO NOT FORGIVE. WE DO NOT FORGET. EXPECT US.”

Google accused the government of hyperbole and argued that the backlash over the Twitter order did not justify secrecy related to the Gmail surveillance. “Rather than demonstrating how unsealing the order will harm its well-publicized investigation, the government lists a parade of horribles that have allegedly occurred since it unsealed the Twitter order, yet fails to establish how any of these developments could be further exacerbated by unsealing this order,” wrote Google’s attorneys. “The proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube, and continuing to seal a materially identical order will not change it.”

But Google’s attempt to overturn the gag order was denied by magistrate judge Ivan D. Davis in February 2011. The company launched an appeal against that decision, but this too was rebuffed, in March 2011, by District Court judge Thomas Selby Ellis, III.

The government agreed to unseal some of the court records on Apr. 1 this year, and they were apparently turned over to Appelbaum on May 14 through a notification sent to his Gmail account. The files were released on condition that they would contain some redactions, which are bizarre and inconsistent, in some cases censoring the name of “WikiLeaks” from cited public news reports.

Not all of the documents in the case – such as the original surveillance orders in the case contested by Google – were released as part of the latest disclosure. Some contain “specific and sensitive details of the investigation” and “remain properly sealed while the grand jury investigation continues,” according to the court records from April this year.

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Appelbaum, who is based in Berlin, called the case “a travesty that continues at a slow pace” and said he felt it was important to highlight “the absolute madness in these documents.”

He told The Intercept: “After five years, receiving such legal documents is neither a shock nor a needed confirmation. … Will we ever see the full documents about our respective cases? Will we even learn the names of those signing so-called legal orders against us in secret sealed documents? Certainly not in a timely manner and certainly not in a transparent, just manner.”

The 32-year-old, who has recently collaborated with Intercept co-founder Laura Poitras to report revelations about National Security Agency surveillance for German news magazine Der Spiegel, said he plans to remain in Germany “in exile, rather than returning to the U.S. to experience more harassment of a less than legal kind.”

“My presence in Berlin ensures that the cost of physically harassing me or politically harassing me is much higher than when I last lived on U.S. soil,” Appelbaum said. “This allows me to work as a journalist freely from daily U.S. government interference. It also ensures that any further attempts to continue this will be forced into the open through [a Mutal Legal Assistance Treaty] and other international processes. The German goverment is less likely to allow the FBI to behave in Germany as they do on U.S. soil.”

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The Justice Department’s WikiLeaks investigaton is headed by prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia. Since 2010, the secretive probe has seen activists affiliated with WikiLeaks compelled to appear before a grand jury and has involved the FBI attempting to infiltrate the group with an informant. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the government had obtained the contents of three core WikiLeaks staffers’ Gmail accounts as part of the investigation.

A dozen outstanding search warrants and court orders have been issued in the WikiLeaks inquiry, says attorney Ahmed Ghappour, who is representing independent journalist Alexa O’Brien in her effort to have the documents unsealed. That is on top of the three disclosed earlier this year, the orders disclosed by Twitter and one more revealed by a small Internet provider, Sonic, for data about whom Appelbaum e-mailed.

Manual for Secretive StingRay Cellphone Spy Device + Harris Corp Product Price Sheet (2010)

In Archive, DOJ, FBI, Harris Corporation, STINGRAY, Surveillance on April 21, 2015 at 11:15 PM

03/26/2015

Matthew Keys/TheBlot:

Florida-based Harris Corporation, manufacturer of computer hardware and communications equipment used by government agencies, attempted to block the public release of documents last year related to a once-secret cellphone surveillance device distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement.

In an October 2014 letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Harris executive Tania Hanna asked the agency to withhold documents related to its StingRay and KingFish surveillance equipment from public disclosure because the records contained “trade secrets” and information about “law enforcement techniques.”

Harris argued the documents sought — user manuals requested by TheBlot Magazine under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) — qualified for exemption because the documents had previously been kept secret in criminal cases.

TheBlot filed the FOIA request with the FCC last September. A heavily redacted copy of a 2010 user manual covering both StingRay and KingFish devices was delivered by the FCC last week and is being published here for the first time.

A StingRay is a radio interception device that, when deployed, forces cellphones in a given area to connect to it instead of a legitimate communications tower. A computer attached to a StingRay allows investigators access to a trove of data from intercepted cellphones, including call and messaging logs, geolocation data and handset information.

A KingFish is a less-expensive, more-portable version of a StingRay. Some records indicate that, while a StingRay is intended to be mounted in and controlled from a vehicle, a KingFish can be remotely controlled and can even be worn by its user.

Records reviewed by TheBlot reveal Harris first began manufacturing the devices for use by U.S. military analysts in the early 2000s. One of the company’s earliest buyers of cellphone spy equipment was the U.S. Navy, which could explain how the Harris-made surveillance gear got its aquatic nicknames.

The manual, which appears to be the same copy submitted to the FCC by Harris in 2010, reveals the StingRay and KingFish equipment are likely individual components that comprise a cellphone surveillance kit marketed and sold to police.

The manual indicates the StingRay and KingFish devices are sold as part of a larger surveillance kit that includes third-party software and laptops. Tables that contain the names of the other equipment is redacted in the copy provided by the FCC, but other records reviewed by TheBlot indicate the laptops are manufactured by Dell and Panasonic, while the software is designed by Pen-Link, a company that makes programs for cellphone forensics.

Related Links:

FBI Documents Shine Light on Clandestine Cellphone Tracking Tool “Stingray”

DOJ Emails Show Feds Routinely Using Cell Phone Tracking Tool “Stingray”, Hiding It From Judges

FBI’s “Wireless Intercept & Tracking Team” Revealed in Declassified Documents

ACLU Report – STINGRAYS: The Most Common Surveillance Tool the Government Won’t Tell You About

BJS Report Finds Police Killed More Than Twice as Many People as Reported by FBI

In Archive, BJS, DOJ, FBI, Police Brutality, USA on March 5, 2015 at 11:31 AM

stolen-lives-killed-by-law-enforcement

03/04/2015

Tom McCarthy/Guardian:

An average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the US went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade, according to a report released on Tuesday. There were 7,427 law enforcement homicides in the US during the eight years spanning 2003-2009 and 2011 — or an average of 928 per year. The number is more than twice as large as the closest previous official tally from the US government.

The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annually over eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.

The revelation called into particular question the FBI practice of publishing annual totals of “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” – tallies that are widely cited in the media and elsewhere as the most accurate official count of police homicides.

The new estimates added crucial framing to a criminal justice crisis in the US that was coming into sharp focus this week. A Justice Department report published on Wednesday exposed serial civil rights abuses by police in Ferguson, Missouri. On Monday, the president’s taskforce on policing issued recommendations for better data collection (PDF) as part of a call for top-to-bottom criminal justice reform.

Independent tallies had previously indicated that the FBI’s “justifiable homicide” counts were flawed. But until recently, the FBI discouraged challenges to its numbers, insisting that they were carefully audited – and pointing out that the bureau, in any case, was required by law to publish them.

Tuesday’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, produced in collaboration with research institute RTI International, explodes the notion – if its findings are accurate – that the figures the FBI publishes annually are anything other than hugely misleading.

The data underlying the FBI tally “is estimated to cover 46% of officer-involved homicides at best” for the years 2003-2009 and 2011, the BJS report concluded. But the published FBI tallies cover even fewer of the total deaths, closer to 41%, in part because the FBI publishes no data from Florida. A separate tally of “arrest-related deaths”, conducted by BJS itself, was slightly more accurate for the years in question, capturing 49% of law enforcement homicides, at best, the report found.

The report estimated “an average of 928 law enforcement homicides per year” for the years in question, suggesting that the FBI’s published count of 414 such deaths in 2009, for example, might be 124% off, while its count of 347 such deaths in 2005 might be 167% off.

But the majority of victims in law enforcement homicides for those years not only went unnamed – they went uncounted in any one tally. Even the two counting systems combined, as overseen by the FBI and BJS, left an estimated 2,103 homicides uncounted during those years.

Academics and specialists have long been aware of flaws in the FBI numbers, which are based on voluntary submissions by local law enforcement agencies of paperwork known as supplementary homicide reports. No law requires local agencies to fill out the reports, and some agencies do not, especially not for officer-involved homicides, according to experts who have studied the issue.

More…

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DOJ Ferguson Report: Systematic Racially Biased Policing/Unjustified Arrests/Excessive Force/Bigoted Emails; No Civil Rights Charges Against Darren Wilson

In Archive, DOJ, Ferguson, Police Brutality, USA on March 4, 2015 at 8:15 PM

03/04/2015

DOJ:

The Justice Department announced the findings of its two civil rights investigations related to Ferguson, Missouri, today.  The Justice Department found that the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.  The Justice Department also announced that the evidence examined in its independent, federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown does not support federal civil rights charges against Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

“As detailed in our report, this investigation found a community that was deeply polarized, and where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “Our investigation showed that Ferguson police officers routinely violate the Fourth Amendment in stopping people without reasonable suspicion, arresting them without probable cause, and using unreasonable force against them.  Now that our investigation has reached its conclusion, it is time for Ferguson’s leaders to take immediate, wholesale and structural corrective action.  The report we have issued and the steps we have taken are only the beginning of a necessarily resource-intensive and inclusive process to promote reconciliation, to reduce and eliminate bias, and to bridge gaps and build understanding.”


Attorney General Holder first announced the comprehensive pattern or practice investigation into the Ferguson Police Department after visiting that community in August 2014, and hearing directly from residents about police practices and the lack of trust between FPD and those they are sworn to protect.  The investigation focused on the FPD’s use of force, including deadly force; stops, searches and arrests; discriminatory policing; and treatment of detainees inside Ferguson’s city jail by Ferguson police officers.

In the course of its pattern or practice investigation, the Civil Rights Division reviewed more than 35,000 pages of police records; interviewed and met with city, police and court officials, including the FPD’s chief and numerous other officers; conducted hundreds of in-person and telephone interviews, as well as participated in meetings with community members and groups; observed Ferguson Municipal Court sessions, and; analyzed FPD’s data on stops, searches and arrests.  It found that the combination of Ferguson’s focus on generating revenue over public safety, along with racial bias, has a profound effect on the FPD’s police and court practices, resulting in conduct that routinely violates the Constitution and federal law.  The department also found that these patterns created a lack of trust between the FPD and significant portions of Ferguson’s residents, especially African Americans.

The department found that the FPD has a pattern or practice of:

  • Conducting stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
  • Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment; and
  • Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The department found that Ferguson Municipal Court has a pattern or practice of:

  • Focusing on revenue over public safety, leading to court practices that violate the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection requirements.
  • Court practices exacerbating the harm of Ferguson’s unconstitutional police practices and imposing particular hardship upon Ferguson’s most vulnerable residents, especially upon those living in or near poverty.Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay and result in the loss of a driver’s license, employment, or housing.

The department found a pattern or practice of racial bias in both the FPD and municipal court:

  • The harms of Ferguson’s police and court practices are borne disproportionately by African Americans and that this disproportionate impact is avoidable.
  • Ferguson’s harmful court and police practices are due, at least in part, to intentional discrimination, as demonstrated by direct evidence of racial bias and stereotyping about African Americans by certain Ferguson police and municipal court officials.

The findings are laid out in a 100-page report that discusses the evidence and what remedies should be implemented to end the pattern or practice.

PDF

CNN:

Here are some of the most striking examples cited in the 102-page Justice Department report:

The 67% of African Americans in Ferguson account for 93% of arrests made from 2012-2014

Unlawful arrest has long-term consequences

Summer of 2012. A 32-year-old African-American was cooling off in his car after a basketball game in a public park.

What comes next is a series of civil rights violations described in the Justice Department report that resulted in the man losing his job as a federal contractor.

A Ferguson police officer demands the man’s Social Security number and identification before accusing him of being a pedophile and ordering the man out of his car.

When the officer asked to search the man’s car, the 32-year-old refused, invoking his constitutional right.

The response? The officer arrested the man at gunpoint, slapped him with eight charges, including for not wearing a seat belt, despite the fact that he was sitting in a parked car. The officer also cited him for “making a false declaration” because he gave his name as ‘Mike’ instead of ‘Michael.’

“The man told us that, because of these charges, he lost his job as a contractor with the federal government that he had held for years,” the report says.

People? More like, “sources of revenue”

The Justice Department also revealed that driving the uneven hand of the law in Ferguson was “the city’s emphasis on revenue generation.”

City officials repeatedly pushed the Ferguson police department to increase city revenue through ticketing, resulting in disproportionate targeting of African-Americans.

“Many officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue,” the probe concluded.

African-Americans were disproportionately targeted by those practices, ticketed and cited for minor violations at a higher rate than white residents.

And African-Americans were almost exclusively on the receiving end of some violations: They accounted for 95% of “manner of walking in roadway” charges and 94% of “failure to comply” charges, for example.

In 2015, the city anticipated raising more than $3 million in fines and fees — more than double the total from five years earlier.

Racist emails

Ferguson’s police officers and city court officials’ practices didn’t just happen to disproportionately target African-Americans.

“Rather, our investigation has revealed that these disparities occur, at least in part, because of unlawful bias against and stereotypes about African-Americans,” the investigators concluded.

Part of that bias came across in emails shared around by police and court officials:

  • A November 2008 email said President Barack Obama won’t be president for long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
  • An April 2011 email depicted President Obama as a chimpanzee.
  • An email joked that African-American women should use abortion to control crime.
  • A May 2011 email said, “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.'”
  • A March 2010 email mocked African Americans with horrible stereotypes about their families and how they speak. One line of the email read, “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
  • A June 2011 email said a man wanted to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
  • An October 2011 email had a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”
  • A December 2011 email made jokes based off offensive stereotypes about Muslims.

“Our investigation has not revealed any indication that any officer or court clerk engaged in these communications was ever disciplined,” the report reads.

All those who sent the emails are current Ferguson city officials.

In his press conference tonight, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said one of the three city workers who the DOJ report identified as having sent racist emails had been fired, and the other two were under investigation.

Didn’t pay that parking ticket? Here’s your arrest warrant

The Justice Department probe revealed racial discrimination by the police department, but also by the municipal court.

The city court issued more than 9,000 arrest warrants stemming from minor violations like parking and traffic tickets.

The city wasn’t just focused on revenue through tickets, but the fines associated with late payment of fines and additional arrest fees, according to the report.

The investigators spoke with one woman who is still dealing with the repercussions of a 2007 parking violation.

More than seven years later, she’s now been arrested twice because of the parking violation and has already paid $550 in fees stemming from the parking violation.

She still owes $541 … on a ticket that originally amounted to a $151 fine.

“The woman, who experienced financial difficulties and periods of homelessness over several years, was charged with seven Failure to Appear offenses for missing court dates or fine payments on her parking tickets between 2007 and 2010,” the report says.

Use of force

The Ferguson Police Department recorded 151 instances in which officers used force, documents that provide a litany of evidence of excessive use of force.

“Our finding that FPD force is routinely unreasonable and sometimes clearly punitive is drawn largely from FPD’s documentation; that is, from officers’ own words,” the Justice Department explained.

The federal investigation based on those reports revealed that officers are “quick to escalate encounters with subjects they perceive to be disobeying their orders or arrest.”

“They have come to rely on ECWs, specifically Tasers, where less force — or not force at all — would do,” the report explains.

The officers’ use of force in some cases had “no basis in law” while others were simply “punitive and retaliatory.”

“In addition, FPD records suggest a tendency to use unnecessary force against vulnerable groups such as people with mental health conditions or cognitive disabilities, and juvenile students,” the investigators found.

Tasers, or “ECWs–an electroshock weapon that disrupts a person’s muscle control”

“FPD officers seem to regard ECWs as an all-purpose tool bearing no risk.” – DOJ report

The Justice Department described officers’ use of ECWs as “swift, at times automatic” and shows several examples, such as:

  • A Ferguson correctional officer fired an ECW at an African-American woman because she yelled an insult at the officer and wouldn’t go to her cell. She had been arrested for driving while intoxicated. The officer said he used the Taser because she was “not doing as she was told.”
  • And in September 2012, an officer stunned a handcuffed woman in the back of his squad car because she was using her legs to block him from closing the door.

Dogs

“Canine officers use dogs out of proportion to the threat posed by the people they encounter, leaving serious puncture wounds to nonviolent offenders, some of them children.” – DOJ report

Every single time Ferguson police officers released a dog to bite an individual involved an African-American, according to the department’s records.

  • In one incident, a police officer released a dog on a 14-year-old African-American boy who was found hiding in the closet of an abandoned house, “curled up in a ball,” according to the police report. After the boy wouldn’t show his hands and after being warned, the police officer released the dog, which bit the boy’s arm. The boy told federal investigators he never hid in a closet, was never warned the dog would be released and was just waiting for his friends at the house. He said he was bitten in the ankle, thigh and arm.
  • In other incidents, the officers failed to warn suspects that they would release a dog.
  • In another instance, an officer deployed a dog on a fleeing suspect even though he had just patted down the suspect and knew he was not armed. Officers are only supposed to release a canine officer if they fear for their life or believe the suspect may be armed.

Shocking stats

  • Less than 8% of Ferguson police officers are African-American.
  • African-Americans accounted for 90% of officers’ use of force.
  • African-Americans weren’t just more likely to be stopped, but more likely to be cited and arrested regardless of the reason for the stop. And they were more likely to receive multiple citations during a single incident.
  • African-American drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be searched during traffic stops, but 26% less likely to be found in possession of contraband.

Related Link: Ferguson Police Department’s Code of Conduct & Multiple Ways It Was Ignored

The findings include two sets of recommendations, 26 in total, that the Justice Department believes are necessary to correct the unconstitutional FPD and Ferguson Municipal Court practices.  The recommendations include: changing policing and court practices so that they are based on public safety instead of revenue; improving training and oversight; changing practices to reduce bias, and; ending an overreliance on arrest warrants as a means of collecting fines.

The Justice Department will require that the recommendations and other measures be part of a court-enforceable remedial process that includes involvement from community stakeholders as well as independent oversight.  The Justice Department has provided its investigative report to the FPD and in the coming weeks, the Civil Rights Division will seek to work with the City of Ferguson and the Ferguson community to develop and reach an agreement for reform, using the recommendations in the report as the starting point.

Ferguson city officials said in a statement on their website that they were reviewing the findings and would hold a press conference later on Wednesday. On the website, the city also outlined steps it has taken to improve relations with the community since Brown’s death. In October, it set up a citizen review board to make recommendations to the mayor. It also began installing body and dashboard cameras for police officers and launched an effort to recruit officers from more diverse backgrounds.


The federal criminal investigation into the fatal shooting of Michael Brown sought to determine whether the evidence from the events that led to Brown’s death was sufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Wilson’s actions violated federal civil rights laws that make it a federal crime for someone acting with law enforcement authority to willfully violate a person’s civil rights.  As part of the investigation, federal authorities reviewed physical, ballistic, forensic, and crime scene evidence; medical reports and autopsy reports, including an independent autopsy performed by the U.S. Department of Defense Armed Forces Medical Examiner Service; Wilson’s personnel records; audio and video recordings; internet postings, and; the transcripts from the proceedings before the St. Louis County grand jury.  Federal investigators interviewed purported eyewitnesses and other individuals claiming to have relevant information.  Federal prosecutors and agents re-interviewed dozens of witnesses to evaluate their accounts and obtain more detailed information.  FBI agents independently canvassed more than 300 residences to locate and interview additional witnesses.

The standard of proof is the same for all criminal cases: that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  However, unlike state laws, federal criminal civil rights statutes do not have the equivalent of manslaughter or a statute that makes negligence a crime.  Federal statutes require the government to prove that Officer Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot Michael Brown and that he did so willfully, that is, he shot Brown knowing it was wrong and against the law to do so.  After a careful and deliberative review of all of the evidence, the department has determined that the evidence does not establish that Darren Wilson violated the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute.  The family of Michael Brown was notified earlier today of the department’s findings.

Due to the high interest in this case, the department took the rare step of publicly releasing the closing memo in the case.  The report details, in over 80 pages, the evidence, including evidence from witnesses, the autopsies and physical evidence from the analysis of the DNA, blood, shooting scene and ballistics.  The report also explains the law as developed by the federal courts and applies that law to the evidence.

PDF

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In December, President Barack Obama convened a task force on 21st century policing. Its preliminary report (PDF), released this week, recommended compiling data on officer-involved shootings and establishing independent investigations of such incidents. It also recommended reducing police use of military equipment during protests, though it stopped short of recommending the widespread use of body cameras for officers, citing privacy concerns.

The task force also recommended that departments work to build trust in communities of color. A survey it conducted found that 72 percent of whites said they were confident officers would treat people of other races the same way; only 46 percent of Hispanics and 36 percent of blacks agreed.

Google Informs WikiLeaks of U.S. Search Warrants; Staff’s Gmail/Metadata Seized by Government

In Archive, Assange, DOJ, Google, Harrison, Surveillance, USA, WikiLeaks on December 31, 2014 at 4:12 AM

us-google-search-warrant-wikileaks-sarah-harrison

12/29/2014

According to a statement by WikiLeaks on Twitter, on Christmas Eve Google informed the organization that the Gmail mailboxes and account metadata of a WikiLeaks employee had been turned over to law enforcement under a U.S. federal warrant.

WikiLeaks journalist and Courage Foundation acting director Sarah Harrison revealed a redacted copy of the warrant during her presentation on source protection at the Chaos Communications Congress. The warrant was dated for execution by April 5, 2012 by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, part of the continuing investigation by the Justice Department into criminal charges against WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

Harrison said spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, herself, and other people relating to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were all subject to U.S. government search warrants served to Google, and that the organization would be covering this more in the new year.

This is at least the second time a U.S. warrant has been served to Google for data from someone connected to WikiLeaks. A sealed warrant was served to Google in 2011 for the email of a WikiLeaks volunteer in Iceland. And the Justice Department has also previously sought to get metadata from WikiLeaks-connected Twitter accounts, and won a court battle with Twitter three years ago to force the service to provide that metadata.

UPDATE #1 01/26/2015

WikiLeaks:

Today, WikiLeaks’ lawyers have written to Google and the US Department of Justice concerning a serious violation of the privacy and journalistic rights of WikiLeaks’ staff. Investigations editor Sarah Harrison, Section Editor Joseph Farrell and senior journalist and spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson have received notice that Google had handed over all their emails and metadata to the United States government on the back of alleged ‘conspiracy’ and ‘espionage’ warrants carrying up to 45 years in prison.

Importantly, the warrants reveal for the first time a clear list of the alleged offences the US government is trying to apply in its attempts to build a prosecution against Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks staff. The offences add up to a total of 45 years of imprisonment.

The US government is claiming universal jurisdiction to apply the Espionage Act, general Conspiracy statute and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to journalists and publishers – a horrifying precedent for press freedoms around the world. Once an offence is alleged in relation to a journalist or their source, the whole media organisation, by the nature of its work flow, can be targeted as alleged ‘conspiracy’. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief said: ‘WikiLeaks has out endured everything the Obama administration has thrown at us and we will out endure these latest “offences” too.’

The alleged offences are:

  • Espionage: 18 U.S.C. § 793(d) – imprisonment up to 10 years
  • Conspiracy to commit espionage: 18 U.S.C. § 793(g) – imprisonment up to 10 years
  • The theft or conversion of property belonging to the United States government: 18 U.S.C. § 641 – imprisonment up to 10 years
  • Violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: 18 U.S.C. § 1030 – imprisonment up to 10 years
  • (general) Conspiracy: 18 U.S.C. § 371 – imprisonment up to 5 years

PDF

UPDATE #2 01/28/2015

Ellen Nakashima/Julie Tate/WaPo:

Google has fought all gag orders preventing it from telling customers that their e-mails and other data were sought by the U.S. government in a long-running investigation of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which published leaked diplomatic cables and military documents, an attorney representing the tech firm said this week.The tech firm’s challenges date to January 2011 and include an attempt to overturn gag orders accompanying search warrants issued in March 2012 for the e-mails of three WikiLeaks staff members, said the attorney, Albert Gidari, in an interview.Google’s long battle to inform its customers about the warrants and court orders has been fought largely in secret because of the court-imposed gags, hampering its effort to counter the impression that it has not stood up for users’ privacy, Gidari said.

In the latest instance, the three WikiLeaks staff members revealed this week that Google notified them on Dec. 23 that their e-mails were the subject of search warrants — almost three years after the broad warrants were issued by a magistrate judge in the Eastern District of Virginia.

“We are astonished and disturbed that Google waited over two and a half years to notify its subscribers,” Michael Ratner, an attorney for the staff members, wrote in a letter Monday to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Google says it challenged the secrecy from the beginning and was able to alert the customers only after the gag orders on those warrants were partly lifted, said Gidari, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm.

“From January 2011 to the present, Google has continued to fight to lift the gag orders on any legal process it has received on WikiLeaks,” he said, adding that the company’s policy is to challenge all gag orders that have indefinite time periods.

The affidavits and applications underlying the orders are still sealed. The company said it is seeking to unseal them.

Google’s belated disclosure contrasts with the way in which Twitter, the microblogging platform, was able to quickly inform several of its customers in 2011 that the federal government had demanded their subscriber data in the WikiLeaks inquiry.

According to Gidari, whose firm has represented both companies, Google’s delay was not the result of foot-dragging but of opposition from prosecutors who were upset by the backlash that followed the disclosure of their court orders to Twitter.

In December 2010, Twitter received a court order for subscriber information on five WikiLeaks staff members and supporters and promptly notified the Justice Department that it would inform them that their data was being sought. Rather than seek a court order to impose a gag on Twitter, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia, apparently not foreseeing controversy, allowed the firm to notify its subscribers.

“usa government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. do they realize i am a member of parliament in iceland?” tweeted Birgitta Jonsdottir, a WikiLeaks supporter.

The name of the assistant U.S. attorney, Tracy Doherty-McCormick, was included in the published material.

“The U.S. attorney’s office thought the notice and the resulting publicity was a disaster for them,” Gidari said. “They were very upset” about the prosecutor’s name and phone number being disclosed, he said. “They went through the roof.”

About the same time that the Twitter story broke, Google was served with a separate order for the data of Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks volunteer and security researcher. Google wanted to inform him, but prosecutors balked.

“There was a lot of pushback from the government because they also were getting pressure from the people who got served from Twitter,” Gidari said. “The U.S. attorney’s office is like, ‘Hell no — we’ll fight you forever.’ ”

For the next four years, “Google litigated up and down through the courts trying to get the orders modified so that notice could be given,” he said.

Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the Eastern District of Virginia, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation of WikiLeaks.

In the fall of 2011, Google was able to tell Appelbaum that the government had sought data such as the IP addresses of the people he e-mailed with, according to a 2011 report in the Wall Street Journal.

Google also successfully challenged the gag orders on another court order and search warrant issued in 2011 in the WikiLeaks case, said Ahmed Ghappour, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, citing court documents.

A dozen outstanding search warrants and court orders have been issued in the WikiLeaks inquiry, said Ghappour, who is representing independent journalist Alexa O’Brien in her effort to have the documents unsealed. That is on top of the three disclosed last month, the orders disclosed by Twitter and one more revealed by a small Internet provider, Sonic, for data about whom Appelbaum e-mailed.

“The additional surveillance orders uncovered here seem to be the tip of the iceberg of a wide-ranging investigation now in its fifth year,” Ghappour said. “That such a broad dragnet could remain secret for so long defies principles such as transparency, speech and privacy, all fundamental to our democracy.”

Ratner, who is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said Google’s effort to challenge the gag order is “a positive development.”

But the case represents “an amazing Catch-22,” he said. Google does not “have the strongest right to challenge the scope or the reasonableness of the warrant. The only people who really have that are the targets of the warrant, and they don’t know about it. So essentially the government has carte blanche to get whatever they want.”

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