Law Enforcement

  • A first: Judge in terrorism case rules defense may examine government secret FISA application

    U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled yesterday (Wednesday) that the U.S. government cannot keep secret its request to conduct clandestine surveillance of an accused would-be terrorist. The ruling gives defense attorneys an unprecedented access to a request made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for permission to spy on an American citizen. Judge Coleman said her ruling is the first time a defendant’s lawyers will be given access to an application prosecutors submitted to the FISA court. Security experts warned that opening FISA applications to review in a criminal case may set a dangerous precedent.

  • Last meals on death row may indicate guilt or innocence

    Can last meals reveal more about individuals on death row than their taste preference? A new study examined whether an individual who has accepted guilt — by apologizing or confessing — is more likely to indulge in a last meal. The study found that those who denied guilt were 2.7 times more likely to decline a last meal than those who admitted guilt. Furthermore, those who were admittedly guilty requested 34 percent more calories of food and were more likely to request brand name, comfort-food items.

  • Restrictive concealed weapons laws correlated with an increase in gun-related murders

    It may make sense to assume that states in which there are tight laws on weapons would make that state a safer place and one with less gun crime, but recent research argues that the very opposite is true. Research shows that in states with more restrictive concealed carry weapons (CCW) laws there is actually an increase in gun related crime. The author notes that his study looks solely at gun crime, rather than violent crime, which is the case in similar research.

  • Judge denies defense request to see whether NSA surveillance led to terrorism charges

    U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman on Friday ruled that lawyers for Adel Daoud, a 20-year old resident of Hillside, a suburb west of Chicago, who was charged with plotting to set off a powerful bomb outside a crowded Chicago bar, will not be allowed to examine whether the investigators who initiated the sting operation which led to Doud’s arrest relied on information gleaned from NSA surveillance programs. Attorneys for Daoud had asked Judge Coleman to instruct prosecutors to disclose “any and all” surveillance information used in Daoud’s case, including information disclosed to a U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence. In a brief ruling posted late Friday, Coleman denied the motion, writing that the defense had “failed to provide any basis for issuing such an order.” Prosecutors would not confirm whether the FBI had initiated its operation against Doud as a result of a tip from the NSA, but they did say that even if such surveillance did exist, they have no plans of using it at trial and the defense was not entitled to it.

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  • Palestinian ambassador to Czech Republic killed in explosion

    Jamal al-Jamal, the Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic, was killed yesterday in a blast at his home in Suchdol, an upscale suburb north of Prague. The blast is believed to have been caused by explosives stored in a safe. When he opened the safe, the explosives went off. Riad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said that the safe had not been opened in at least thirty years. The ambassador moved to the new building in October, and workers moved the safe, unopened, from the old offices of the Prague Palestinian mission to the new one at that time.

  • Judge upholds New York gun restrictions -- except 7-round per magazine limit

    A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that New York’s strict new gun laws, including an expanded ban on assault weapons, were constitutional. He struck down, though, a provision prohibiting gun owners from loading more than seven rounds into a magazine. The 54-page ruling by William M. Skretny of Federal District Court in Buffalo should be considered a victory for gun control advocates who saw gun control measures on the federal level stall. Judge Skretny, writing that “whether regulating firearms is wise or warranted is not a judicial question; it is a political one,” said that expanded bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were legally sound because they served to “further the state’s important interest in public safety.”

  • Not all questions about the Tsarnaev brothers have been answered

    What caused Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to plant two bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line continues to puzzle investigators. Understanding the information which was available to local and federal law enforcement authorities before and after the attack might help prevent a future attack.

  • Wearable body-cameras adopted by more police departments

    Law enforcement agencies around the country are testing body-cameras on officers as a way to keep records of police interaction with the public. The cameras may be attached to hats, eyeglasses, or hung around the neck, giving the public and the courts a more intimate look at how police do their jobs.

  • Maine police uses social media, sponsored apps to fight crime

    The accessibility of smartphones and the popularity of apps are making it easier for police to share and receive information from the public. Law enforcement agencies in Maine are using department-managed social media pages to engage with the public. Police department in money also use funds from recovered items and cash seized from drug busts to fund the development of apps which make it easier for the public to communicate with the police and report crimes.

  • Measures being offered to reduce mass shootings not likely to succeed

    Criminologists debunk eleven common myths which dominate the discussion about how to put an end to, or at least reduce, the number and scope of mass shooting. They argue that the measures typically offered to deal with the problem — widening the availability of mental-health services, enhanced background checks, having armed guards at schools, censoring violent entertainment, especially video games, and more – would, at best, merely take a nibble out of the risk of mass murder. Even reducing mass shooting marginally would be a worthy goal, but “eliminating the risk of mass murder would involve extreme steps that we are unable or unwilling to take — abolishing the Second Amendment, achieving full employment, restoring our sense of community, and rounding up anyone who looks or acts at all suspicious. Mass murder just may be a price we must pay for living in a society where personal freedom is so highly valued,” they write.

  • Boston Police has suspended use of license plate scanners

    TheBoston Police Department (BPD) has suspended its use of license plate scanners which enable law enforcement agencies automatically to scan vehicles for traffic or criminal violations. The announcement comes after an investigation raised privacy concerns regarding whether BPD is capable of securing the data collected from the license plate scanners. The investigation also revealed that information on wanted vehicles captured by the scanners was not followed.

  • Shot spotting system helps Stockton, Calif. Police reduce gunfire

    ShotSpotter sensors detect gunfire, then immediately transmit a signal to control center where technicians use triangulation to locate the spot of origin of the firing to within five to ten feet. The technician reports the location within thirty to forty seconds to the police to dispatch officers to the scene. Stockton, California police has been using ShotSpotter for nine months now, and the police chief says the system has helped reduce gunfire in the covered area by fifty percent.

  • Africa’s Sahel region threatened by terrorism, organized crime: Ban Ki-moon

    Terrorism, trafficking in arms, drugs, and people, and other transnational forms of organized crime are threatening security in Africa’s vast sub-Saharan Sahel region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the Security Council yesterday. He called for continued strengthening of The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), a 12,600-strong force set up by the Council in April and authorized “to use all necessary means” to carry out security-related stabilization tasks, protect civilians, UN staff, and cultural artefacts in the cou8ntry, and create the conditions for provision of humanitarian aid.

  • Improving the national ballistic data base

    A team of researchers identified a number of areas of improvement in a national database of forensic ballistics evidence used to link guns to violent crimes. The report, just released by the National Institute of Justice, already has led to improvements in the system called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), which is operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

  • Police cell-phone tracking raises privacy concerns

    Law enforcement agencies around the country are using the International Mobile Subscriber Identity locator (IMSI catcher), known as Stingray, to track cellphone users for the purpose of assisting criminal investigations. Stingray masquerades as a cellphone tower, tricking phones into sending it a signal that law enforcement can later use to identify the serial number of the phone and track the subscriber or cellphone user. Privacy advocates are worried about widespread police tracking of cellphones and violations of privacy.