Laws and regulations

  • Debate continues over releasing Pennsylvania crude oil shipment information

    Shipment of crude oil by rail in the United States has increased from 800,000 barrels a day in 2012 to 1.4 million in 2014. In western Pennsylvania, over seventy-five million gallons of crude oil are passing through Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to refineries in Philadelphia. Release of the recently classified rail transport records by Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) was a result of a federal mandate ordering railway companies to share information on interstate shipments of crude oil with state emergency management officials.Railway companies claim that releasing the information threatens security and is commercially sensitive.

  • Experts urge caution in relying upon eyewitness identifications in criminal cases

    A new report from the National Research Council recommends best practices that law enforcement agencies and courts should follow to improve the likelihood that eyewitness identifications used in criminal cases will be accurate. Science has provided an increasingly clear picture of the inherent limits in human visual perception and memory that can lead to errors, as well as the ways unintentional cues during law enforcement processes can compromise eyewitness identifications, the report says.

  • In U.S. criminal courts, non-citizens face harsher sentencing than citizens

    Non-Americans in the U.S. federal court system are more likely to be sentenced to prison and for longer terms compared to U.S. citizens, according to a new study. The researchers analyzed U.S. federal district court data from 1992 to 2008 for this study. In 2008, for example, 96 percent of convicted non-citizens received a prison sentence, compared to 85 percent of U.S. citizens. The researchers said that the issue of punishment disparities between citizens and non-citizens is a growing concern as the number of non-citizens in the United States — estimated at more than twenty-two million — continues to grow.

  • A first: Jury finds bank guilty of financing terrorism

    In a major development on the terrorism financing front, a U.S. jury found Arab Bank Plc liable for providing material support to Hamas and ordered the bank to compensate nearly 300 Americans who are either victims or relatives of victims of at least two dozen attacks tied to Hamas in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

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  • Anti-Islamic posters to be displayed on NYC buses, subway stations

    An advocacy group has purchased $100,000 worth of advertising space on a hundred New York City buses and two subway stations to display anti-Islamic messages and images. The campaign features six posters, including one of James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by ISIS in August, and another of Adolf Hitler. In 2012 the MTA rejected the group ad purchase, but a court ruled that the posters were “political” in nature, and therefore covered by the First Amendment.

  • Immigration hearings hampered by remote technology glitches, raising constitutional issues

    The are currently nearly 400,000 pending deportation cases, shared among just 230 immigration judges in fifty-nine courtrooms. Immigration cases in the southern United States are encountering increasing delays and hardships due to the necessity of having to rely on wireless and mobile technology in order to have proper communication in the courtroom. Some even worry that the problems with the systems in place, including interpreters using teleconference equipment to translate large statements at a time, may be used in appeals on grounds that it is unconstitutional.

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  • Program aiming to facilitate cyberthreat information sharing is slow to take off

    President Barack Obama’s 2013 executive orderto improve critical infrastructure cybersecurity allows DHS to expand an information-sharing program, once restricted to Pentagoncontractors, to sixteencritical infrastructure industries. The Enhanced Cybersecurity Servicesprogram transmits cyber threat indicators to selected companies so they may prepare their network protection systems to scan for those indicators. A DHS inspector general (IG) reportreleased on Monday has found that just about forty companies from three of the sixteen industries — energy, communications services, and defense — are part of the program. Moreover, only two ISPs are authorized to receive the indicators.

  • Immigration judge says changes needed in “fast-tracking” immigration cases

    While the Obama administration cites evidence that the surge of migrant children from Central America is declining, a leading immigration judge is arguing that the Department of Justice (DOJ) process of “fast-tracking” the cases — often without any legal representation for the defendant — is padding the numbers and also creating other problems of its own.

  • Immigration cases clog immigration courts across the country

    The highly publicized mass immigration of Central American children into the United States — roughly 57,000 over a little under a year — many court systems are facing a crisis as the number of judges, lawyers, and juries available cannot keep up with demand. Across the United States, that caseload reached 375,373 trials last month — an average of 1,500 per each of the country’s 243 immigration judges. Some rescheduled cases are being pushed back as late as 2017.

  • The number of labs handling deadly germs grows, and so do calls for regulating lab safety

    The number of labs handling dangerous pathogens continues to grow, and so does the number of accidents involving dangerous pathogens. The number of reported accidents involving dangerous microbes grew rapidly from just sixteen in 2004 to 128 in 2008, and 269 in 2010, the last year reported.Experts note that currently there is no single federal agency responsible for assessing overall laboratory needs — instead, departments and agencies only assess the needs for labs relative to their respective missions.

  • Appeals Court blocks Arizona’s order denying driver’s licenses to “dreamers”

    A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked an August 2012 executive order issued by Arizona’s Republican governor Jan Brewer which denies driver’s licenses and other public benefits to young immigrants who are allowed to remain in the United States under a 2012 Obama administration policy.

  • Supreme Court cites NIST guidelines in ruling on cell phone searches

    As digital technology transforms twenty-first century life, questions about privacy rights abound. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on one such question in late June: if you are arrested, can the police search your cell phone without first obtaining a warrant? No, according to the 25 June 2014 ruling in Riley v. California. “Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life,’ … The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.

  • Privacy advocates worried about new Senate cybersecurity bill

    Privacy groups are concerned that a new Senate cybersecurity bill could give the NSA unrestricted access to personal information of Americans. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a counterpart to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which passed the House in 2013, would create a “gaping loophole in existing privacy law,” several privacy advocacy groups wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

  • Supreme Court: police must obtain a warrant to search suspect’s cellphone

    Earlier this week the Supreme Courtruled that law enforcement must obtain a warrant to search a suspect’s cellphone. Law enforcement argued that no current law makes a distinction between cellphones and the pocket litter (wallets, cigarette packs) which police have always been permitted to search when arresting a suspect, but Chief Justice John Roberts rejected this argument, saying, “That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon,” adding: . “Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet or a purse.” Roberts acknowledged that requiring police to seek a warrant could impede some investigations but “privacy comes at a cost,” he said.

  • Judge rules use of NSA surveillance-based information in terrorist case is legal

    Lawyers for Mohamed Mohamud, a U.S. citizen who lived in Oregon, have been denied a motion to dismiss his terrorism conviction, with the court affirming the legality of the U.S. government’s bulk phone and e-mail data collection of foreign nationals living overseas. Mohamud’s defense team claimed the surveillance violated his constitutional rights, and that federal prosecutors did not make available to the defense evidence obtained via the surveillance. U.S. District Judge Garr King upheld Mohamud’s conviction, saying that suppressing the evidence collected through NSA surveillance “and a new trial would put defendant in the same position he would have been in if the government notified him of the (surveillance) at the start of the case.”