Daily Archive: 08/20/2013

Aug 20 2013

Framing the Guilty

This is what happens in the criminal justice culture of testalying.

Chemist in lab scandal told investigators: ‘I messed up bad’

By Brian Ballou and Andrea Estes, Boston Globe

9/26/12

The former state chemist at the heart of the state drug lab scandal admitted to investigators that she improperly removed evidence from storage, forged colleagues’ signatures, and didn’t perform proper tests on drugs for “two or three years,” according to a copy of a State Police report obtained by the Globe.

Annie Dookhan, whose misconduct may have jeopardized evidence in about 34,000 drug cases, also admitted that she recorded drug tests as positive when they were negative “a few times” and sometimes tested only a small sample of the drug batch that she was supposed to analyze.



However, the troopers’ interviews with other chemists in the lab make clear that Dookhan’s colleagues had concerns about her unusually large caseload and lab habits and raised them with supervisors. But the supervisors took little action even when they learned that she had forged other chemists’ initials on some drug samples.



The state lab in Jamaica Plain was closed in August after State Police discovered the potential magnitude of Dookhan’s actions. As a state chemist for nine years, Dookhan handled 60,000 drug samples and sometimes provided expert testimony in court.

Annie Dookhan, alleged rogue state chemist, may have affected 40,323 people’s cases, review finds

By David Abel, John R. Ellement and Martin Finucane, Boston Globe

8/20/13

Governor Deval Patrick’s administration said today it believes that the criminal cases of 40,323 people may have been tainted by the actions of alleged rogue drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan and the management failures at the now-closed Department of Public Health lab where she worked.



But to the Committee for Public Counsel Services and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the administration’s final tally does not fully capture the damage done to individual defendants. The Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency, believes all 190,000 cases sent through the Department of Public Health lab dating back to the early 1990s are now suspect and should be dismissed.

“The whole thing is disturbing,” Anthony Benedetti, chief counsel for the committee said of Meier’s findings and the drug lab scandal. “I think every one of the 40,000 cases she touched should be thrown out. Whether it was possession (of illegal drugs) or distribution (of illegal drugs), the conviction is tainted because of the conduct of Annie Dookhan.”

Matthew Segal, legal director of the ACLU Massachusetts, said the state’s criminal justice system must do more to help those whose civil rights may have been violated by Dookhan’s alleged mishandling of evidence, and the failure of her superiors to stop it.

“David Meier’s announcement today confirms that we are no closer to solving this problem,” said Segal. “There are 40,000 people whose convictions have been potentially tainted and the vast majority of them haven’t had a day in court. Merely identifying them isn’t justice.”



In addition to unraveling hundreds of drug convictions, the scandal has also cost the state millions of dollars to pay individual prosecutors’ offices, multiple state agencies, and the judiciary searching for ways to ensure no one was wrongly convicted.



For fiscal 2013, lawmakers set aside $30 million for Dookhan-related costs, and the administration set up a procedure that required other government agencies to apply for funding to the state Administration and Finance Agency.

Today, the administration said it has approved $10.4 million in requests, of which only $7.6 million has so far been spent by the agencies involved.

But they were guilty you say.

Really?  How do you know?

Aug 20 2013

CIA: True Confessions

The Central Intelligence Agency has decided to “come clean” about what most of already knew. Through a Freedom of Information Act by Foreign Policy, it has been confirmed that the CIA spied on famed activist and linguist Noam Chomsky in the 1970’s.

For years, FOIA requests to the CIA garnered the same denial: “We did not locate any records responsive to your request.” The denials were never entirely credible, given Chomsky’s brazen anti-war activism in the 60s and 70s — and the CIA’s well-documented track record of domestic espionage in the Vietnam era. But the CIA kept denying, and many took the agency at its word.

Now, a public records request by Chomsky biographer Fredric Maxwell reveals a memo between the CIA and the FBI that confirms the existence of a CIA file on Chomsky.

Dated June 8, 1970, the memo discusses Chomsky’s anti-war activities and asks the FBI for more information about an upcoming trip by anti-war activists to North Vietnam. The memo’s author, a CIA official, says the trip has the “ENDORSEMENT OF NOAM CHOMSKY” and requests “ANY INFORMATION” about the people associated with the trip.  request by Foreign Policy, the CIA finally admitted spying on famed activist and linguist Noam Chomsky in the 1970’s.

The CIA also admitted that while they had created a file, it had also been tampered with and destroyed at an unknown time. The destruction of the file may be in violation the Federal Records Act of 1950, requiring all federal agencies to obtain advance approval from the National Archives for any proposed record disposition plans. The Archives is tasked with preserving records with “historical value.” Maybe the dog ate the file.

The other not so surprising confession was the agency’s direct involvement, along with the British, in the 1953 Iranina coup that deposed the democratically elected government

Declassified documents describe in detail how US – with British help – engineered coup against Mohammad Mosaddeq

On the 60th anniversary of an event often invoked by Iranians as evidence of western meddling, the US national security archive at George Washington University published a series of declassified CIA documents.

“The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.

The documents, published on the archive’s website under freedom of information laws, describe in detail how the US – with British help – engineered the coup, codenamed TPAJAX by the CIA and Operation Boot by Britain’s MI6.

Britain, and in particular Sir Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, regarded Mosaddeq as a serious threat to its strategic and economic interests after the Iranian leader nationalised the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, latterly known as BP. But the UK needed US support. The Eisenhower administration in Washington was easily persuaded.

This is one of those “no, duh” moments that we have always known was true and is now confirmed.

Yes, folks, it was and still is all about the oil. Forget the spin about Iran’s nuclear weapon’s program that doesn’t exist or the supposed threat to Israel, it’s all about who controls those oil fields. And the CIA is just another tax funded arm of the corporations that control the rest of the world’s government.

But there are no aliens in Area 51. Yeah, right.

Aug 20 2013

Egypt: The Blood Letting Continues

The violence continues with casualties mounting on both side with no resolution in sight. Democracy Now! recounts the daily horrors with host Amy Goodman and Sharif Abdel Kouddous, independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent based in Cairo.



Transcript can be read here

Mass violence continues in Egypt amidst the bloodiest period in the country’s modern history. Around 900 people have been killed since state forces attacked Muslim Brotherhood protest encampments five days ago. At least 173 people were killed in a “Day of Rage” protest called by the Brotherhood on Friday, followed by at least 79 deaths on Saturday. Around 90 police officers and soldiers have died in the violence, but Islamist supporters of the Brotherhood and ousted President Mohamed Morsi account for the bulk of the victims. On Sunday, at least 36 prisoners were killed in Cairo after guards said they tried to escape while being transferred. But the Muslim Brotherhood accused state forces of a “cold-blooded killing” and demanded an international probe. And earlier today at least 24 police officers were reportedly killed in the northern Sinai after coming under attack by militants.

Amidst rumors that the US had quietly suspended military aid, the White House said this morning that those reports are false.

“The report that we have suspended assistance to Egypt is incorrect,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

“As the president has said, we are reviewing all of our assistance to Egypt. No policy decisions have been made at this point regarding the remaining assistance,” she added.

Here is a brief summery of the latest news from the live feed at The Guardian:

The supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, has been arrested in Nasr City in north-east Cairo after the security forces discovered his hiding place, Egyptian media reported. The private ONTV network showed footage of a man it said was Badie after his arrest. In the footage, a sombre looking Badie in an off-white Arab robe, or galabiyah, sits motionless on a sofa as a man in civilian clothes and carrying an assault rifle stands nearby. Badie and his deputy Khairat el-Shater, who was already in custody, are due to go on trial on 25 August for their alleged role in the killing of eight protesters outside the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters in June.

The former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, could be freed within 48 hours after judicial authorities ruled that he has already spent too long in custody after one of the charges against him was dropped. News of the imminent release of Mubarak, who was overthrown in the 2011 revolution, looks likely to inflame a highly volatile mood in Egypt.

Interim president Adly Mansour has declared three days of mourning for the 25 policemen killed by an armed group in the Sinai desert yesterday. Egyptian state TV reports from the scene near the border with Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip town of Rafah said the terrorists had forced the police conscripts off two minibuses and murdered them in cold blood. Three others were injured. Cairo sources describe the killers as “Takfiris” – a term often used for al-Qaida and like-minded groups.

The Muslim Brotherhood said Badie was facing “political trumped up charges”. It appointed Mahmoud Ezzat, described in the media as the Brotherhood’s “iron man”, as Badie’s temporary replacement.

An Egyptian court will review a petition for the release of deposed President Hosni Mubarak filed by his lawyer tomorrow raising the prospect of him being released within 24 hours, according to Reuters citing judicial sources. The sources said if the petition is upheld Mubarak will be released as there remain no further legal grounds for his detention, though he is being retried on charges of ordering the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprising. An online poster has been circulating on Facebook today supporting him for president in 2014.

A state-owned newspaper has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being being the attack in the Sinai that left 25 policemen dead yesterday. Al-Akhbar ran the headline “Brotherhood Massacre”. The Guardian’s Middle East editor said the headline and the arrest of Badie are part of a propaganda campaign intended to split the Brotherhood’s supporters and to feed into popular sentiment against the Islamist group.

Security officials say an Egyptian journalist working for a state-run daily has been shot dead by soldiers at a military checkpoint. They say Tamer Abdel-Raouf from al-Ahram newspaper and a colleague were on the road during a military-imposed nighttime curfew and a soldier opened fire after the pair drove off from the checkpoint without permission.

Amnesty International said today that there has been “an unprecedented rise in sectarian violence across Egypt targeting Coptic Christians” since the violent dispersals of pro-Morsi sit-ins in Greater Cairo on 14 August and has demanded that the Egyptian authorities take immediate steps to ensure their safety. It says several Coptic Christians have been killed, their churches, homes and businesses targeted and graves desecrated, “seemingly in retaliation for their support of the ousting of Mohamed Morsi”,

A private lawsuit has been issued against the Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradai, who was until recently part of the interim government installed after the ousting of Mohamed Morsi. It charges him with “breaching national trust” (Arabic link). The charge is that by resigning as vice-president he gave the impression that the Egyptian authorities were using excessive force. He has been referred to trial on 17 September.

Democracy Now! hosr Amy Goodman discusses the state of the revolution and the growing divide in Egypt with acclaimed Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif, Chris Toensing, executive director of the Middle East Research and Information Project and Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous.



Transcript can be read here

“One of most depressing things that we’ve seen has been how a strand of what was the revolution, and what was either progressive or liberal, has so completely backed, endorsed, egged on the military and the police and have completely, unrelentingly demonized the Brotherhood and Islamist currents,” Soueif says from Cairo. “And I think that is part of why we’ve had an escalation of violence. It’s as if everyone is playing out a role that is expected of them.”

Aug 20 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Norman Solomon: Oiling the War Machinery, From Oslo to Heathrow to Washington

In Oslo, the world’s most important peace prize has been hijacked for war.

In London, government authority has just fired a new shot at freedom of the press.

And in Washington, the Obama administration continues to escalate its attacks on whistleblowers, journalism and civil liberties.

As a nation at peace becomes a fading memory, so does privacy. Commitments to idealism — seeking real alternatives to war and upholding democratic values — are under constant assault from the peaks of power.

Normalizing endless war and shameless surveillance, Uncle Sam and Big Brother are no longer just close. They’re the same, with a vast global reach.

Henry A. Giroux: America’s Descent Into Madness

America is descending into madness. The stories it now tells are filled with cruelty, deceit, lies, and legitimate all manner of corruption and mayhem.  The mainstream media spins stories that are largely racist, violent, and irresponsible -stories that celebrate power and demonize victims, all the while camouflaging its pedagogical influence under the cheap veneer of entertainment. Unethical grammars of violence now offer the only currency with any enduring value for mediating relationships, addressing problems, and offering instant pleasure. A predatory culture celebrates a narcissistic hyper-individualism that radiates a near sociopathic lack of interest in or compassion and responsibility for others. Anti-public intellectuals dominate the screen and aural cultures urging us to shop more, indulge more, and make a virtue out of the pursuit of personal gain, all the while promoting a depoliticizing culture of consumerism. Undermining life-affirming social solidarities and any viable notion of the public good, right-wing politicians trade in forms of idiocy and superstition that mesmerize the illiterate and render the thoughtful cynical and disengaged.   Military forces armed with the latest weapons from Afghanistan play out their hyper-militarized fantasies on the home front by forming robo SWAT teams who willfully beat youthful protesters and raid neighborhood poker games.  Congressional lobbyists for the big corporations and defense contractors create conditions in which war zones abroad can be recreated at home in order to provide endless consumer products, such as high tech weapons and surveillance tools for gated communities and for prisons alike.

Michelangelo Signorile: Targeting Glenn Greenwald’s Partner Is an Attack on Every One of Us

In one sense Glenn Greenwald’s being gay has nothing to do with the work he’s done as a journalist and commentator, including the revelations of government surveillance he’s helped bring to light in recent months. On the other hand, as he’s stated himself, growing up gay has given him a keen awareness of injustice, and certainly that’s true with regard to a government collecting personal information about its citizens. More than that, Glenn’s being gay seems to have been used against him in recent months. One lurid report in June about his past involvement in an LLC that had a business interest in a gay porn company seemed like a ridiculously feeble attempt to dirty him up by using homophobia as a weapon.

Now Glenn’s relationship is being drawn into the spotlight, as his partner David Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, was detained for nine hours over the weekend at London’s Heathrow airport on his way from Berlin back to Rio, where he and Glenn live together. David was detained under Britain’s Terrorism Act and had his laptop, phone and all of his data confiscated and not returned, after he was held for almost half a day with the possibility of arrest. That’s an attack on every one of us who are journalists, and frankly, every one of us who are in relationships, gay or otherwise.

Eugene Robinson: Arbitrary, and Uncalled For

For all who believe in colorblind justice-and want to see fewer African-American and Hispanic men caught up in the system-there are two items of good news: a judge’s ruling ordering changes in New York’s “stop and frisk” policy and Attorney General Eric Holder’s initiative to keep nonviolent drug offenders out of prison. [..]

Ending the presumption that African-American and Hispanic men are beyond redemption would be a powerful legacy for the first black president and the first black attorney general to leave behind.

Steven Simon: America Has No Leverage in Egypt

EGYPT has entered a dark tunnel, and it is difficult to say when, and in what condition, it will emerge.

Many Americans, in the meantime, are outraged that the Obama administration has not exerted its supposed leverage, in the form of military aid, to pressure the Egyptian army to restore a democratic form of government.

But it is time for some realism about that leverage. A yearly sum of $1.3 billion may seem persuasive, but this money has always been intended to secure foreign policy outcomes, not domestic political arrangements that the United States favors.

Paul Buchheit: The Scariest Man in America

Scary because he claims “We don’t have the power to coerce anybody” while providing massive funding to organizations that attack public education, social programs, worker salaries, business regulations, and the environment.

Scary because he refers to himself with words like ‘integrity’ and ‘principles’ while saying “I want my fair share — and that’s all of it.”

Scary because he declares, “I want my legacy to be…a better way of life for…all Americans.” Here is some of the legacy of Charles Koch: [..]

Aug 20 2013

On This Day In History August 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 20 is the 232nd day of the year (233rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 133 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1911, the first around-the-world telegram sent, 66 years before Voyager II launch

On this day in 1911, a dispatcher in the New York Times office sends the first telegram around the world via commercial service. Exactly 66 years later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sends a different kind of message–a phonograph record containing information about Earth for extraterrestrial beings–shooting into space aboard the unmanned spacecraft Voyager II.

The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft is an unmanned interplanetary space probe launched on August 20, 1977. Both the Voyager 2 and the Voyager 1 space probes were designed, developed, and built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. Identical in form and instruments with its sister Voyager program craft Voyager 1, Voyager 2 was launched on a slower, more curved trajectory that allowed it to be kept in the plane of the Ecliptic (the plane of the Solar System) so that it could be sent on to Uranus and Neptune by means of utilizing gravity assists during its fly-by of Saturn in 1981 and of Uranus in 1986. Because of this chosen trajectory, Voyager 2 could not take a close-up look at the large Saturnian moon Titan as its sister space probe had. However, Voyager 2 did become the first and only spacecraft to make the spaceflight by Uranus and Neptune, and hence completing the Planetary Grand Tour. This is one that is made practical by a seldom-occurring geometric alignment of the outer planets (happening once every 175 years).

The Voyager 2 space probe has made the most productive unmanned space voyage so far, visiting all four of the Outer Planets and their systems of moons and rings, including the first two visits to previously unexplored Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2 had two sensitive vidicon cameras and an assortment of other scientific instruments to make measurements in the ultraviolet, infrared, and radio wavelengths, as well as ones to measure subatomic particles in outer space, including cosmic rays. All of this was accomplished at a fraction of the amount of money that was later spent on more advanced and specialized space probes Galileo and Cassini-Huygens. Along with the earlier NASA Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, sister probe Voyager 1, and the more recent New Horizons, Voyager 2 is an interstellar probe in that all five of these are on one-way trajectories leaving the Solar System.

Aug 20 2013

Journalists Are Not Terrorists

In her opening segment on her show, Rachel Maddow took the US and Great Britain to task for harassing journalists like Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda.

Apparently, when Rachel went on the air she was not aware of this latest development.

UK Authorities Destroy Guardian’s Hard Drives, Force Journalists to Report NSA Stories In Exile

by Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation

Fresh off the news that UK authorities detained the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald for nine hours yesterday, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger has published [an extraordinary report http://www.theguardian.com/com… of government pressure and intimidation that should send chills down the spine of anyone who cares about a free press.

Rusbridger, who up until recently was based in the UK, recounts being approached by UK government officials multiple times and threatened with legal action unless he returned or destroyed the Edward Snowden documents the Guardian had in its possession. Officials from GCHQ, Britain’s NSA counterpart, eventually entered Guardian headquarters and destroyed the hard drives that contained copies of the Snowden documents.

David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face

by Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian

As the events in a Heathrow transit lounge – and the Guardian offices – have shown, the threat to journalism is real and growing

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government’s intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London. The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like “when”.

I wonder if the White House was given a “head’s up” on this action.