Law Enforcement

  • FBI monitors Americans back from fighting in rebel ranks in Syria

    Western intelligence services estimate that 2,100 Europeans and seventy Americans have fought in Syria. U.S. intelligence officials report that some of these Americans have returned to the United States and are under FBI surveillance. There is a concern that individuals who have been trained by al-Qaeda affiliates will ultimately use their battlefield experience to launch attacks in the United States.

  • Growing body of evidence connects lead’s deleterious effects to criminal behavior

    Violent crimes had reached an all-time high in the United States in the early 1990s, but by the end of the decade, the homicide rate had plummeted by more than 40 percent. Many theories were offered to explain this dramatic decline, but a new explanation is gaining credence: the banning of lead from gasoline and paint in the early 1970s. Babies born post-ban were exposed to far less lead – with its proven contribution to lowering IQ and causing attention problems and antisocial tendencies — and twenty years on, these babies became young adults who committed fewer crimes than their predecessors.

  • National Guard units help states ward off cyberattacks

    Governors across the United States are mobilizing their states’ National Guard units to combat threats from cyberattacks. The state of Washington was the first state to assign the state’s National Guard cybersecurity responsibilities. The state recognized the potential of its National Guard as a cyberforce when it realized that many of its soldiers, who are full-time employees and part-time soldiers, worked for tech employers such as Google, Boeing, Cisco, Verizon, and Microsoft.

  • Eco-terrorist sentenced to five years and ordered to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book

    Last Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken imposed a 5-year sentence on radical environmental activist Rebecca Rubin for her involvement in several acts of arson, including the burning of Vail Colorado’s Twin Elks Lodge which caused millions of dollars in damage. Rubin spent almost eight years living underground, giving herself up to the FBI last October. She pleaded guilty to arson, attempted arson, and conspiracy to commit arson in connection with a radical environmental group calling itself The Family. Judge Aiken also ordered Rubin to read Malcolm Gladwell’s 2013 book David and Goliath, explaining that Rubin might learn a thing or two about non-violent environmental advocacy while serving her sentence.

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  • U.S. will seek death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

    The U.S. Justice Department announced that the United States will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old accused of detonating two bombs the Boston Marathon last Aril, killing three people and injuring more than 200 others. The younger Tsarnaev faces thirty counts in the bombing, including use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and the bombing of a public place. Since 1964, the federal government has only executed three people, including Timothy Mc­Veigh who was convicted in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

  • A first: Constitutionality of NSA warrantless surveillance challenged by terrorism suspect

    Jamshid Muhtorov, a refugee from Uzbekistan now facing terrorism charges in Colorado, is the first criminal defendant who, as part of his lawyers’ defense strategy, is challenging the constitutionality of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. Muhtorov filed a motion Wednesday in federal court in Denver to suppress any evidence obtained through the agency’s surveillance program on grounds that it was unlawful. In July 2013 the Justice Department reversed an earlier policy, and now informs defendants whether the case against them, in whole or in part, is based on information obtained through warrantless surveillance. To date, six months after the review process at Justice was launched, Muhtorov and Mohamed Mohamud, a Portland, Oregon teenager who had been convicted after an FBI sting operation of attempting to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, are the only defendants to receive such a disclosure.

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  • 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.

  • 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.