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Five Illinois Cops Are Caught Lying On The Stand When Defense Produces A Recording Contradicting Their Testimony (Legal Issues)

by Tim Cushing

from the liars-apparently-still-trustworthy-enough-to-run-a-desk dept on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 @ 5:43AM

Cops lie. Citizens know this. Defense attorneys know this. Prosecutors know this. Most importantly, judges know this. But rarely does it have any effect on the outcome of the case at hand. But in what has been described as a "Perry Mason moment," five Illinois police officers were caught lying on the stand. (h/t to Trevor Debus)

A seemingly routine suppression hearing in a suburban Chicago courthouse last month took an unexpected dramatic turn when video from a police car was introduced that disproved the testimony of five police officers.

They had said Joseph Sperling was arrested after officers who pulled him over in a traffic stop smelled marijuana, searched the vehicle and found nearly a pound in a backpack lying on the back seat of his car. But the Glenview police video showed the search occurred only after Sperling was taken from his car, frisked and handcuffed, reports the Chicago Tribune (sub. req.).
I suppose once the film rolled, there was little the judge could do but address it. It's one thing for a cop to lie in the courtroom and have it discovered months, weeks or even years later. It's quite another when the testimony is rebutted by video evidence during the same hearing.
"All the officers lied on the stand today," said [Judge Catherine] Haberkorn, who herself is a former prosecutor, at the March 31 hearing. "So there is strong evidence it was conspiracy to lie in this case, for everyone to come up with the same lie."
The officers, currently on desk duty, apparently did conspire to lie about the specifics of the search, at least according to the lawsuit filed by the arrestee shortly after this suppression hearing went sideways.
Joseph Sperling says in his suit that Chicago police asked Glenview officers at the scene of his arrest last June to turn off their squad car dashcams. At least one Glenview officer didn't, resulting in video footage that persuaded a Cook County Circuit Court judge to grant a motion to suppress seized evidence, because police testimony contradicted what the camera showed.
This case has obviously provoked quite a bit of discussion as to how often cops lie and what the final arbiters -- the judges -- do when they take this knowledge into consideration. The answers, unfortunately, are depressing. Even if these temporary desk jockeys manage to retain their jobs, one would think their days as credible witnesses are over. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Scott Greenfield talks about one judge he heard discuss why he kept on pushing defendants into the maw of the prison system, even while knowing those on the law enforcement side weren't necessarily any better when it came to truth-telling.
After a cocktail or two, Harold talked about how his experience as a judge changed him. Case after case, defendant after defendant, victim after victim, made it all a blur. Sure, cops lied. Everybody knew cops lied. Everybody knew cops lied in every case. That was the game. It was their job to put the bad guy away, and the way to win the game was to speak the magic words that the system accepted as necessary…

What was he supposed to do, Harold asked? They may not all be guilty, but they all were guilty. No one could pluck out the one in a hundred who didn’t deserve to be there, and he wasn’t going to cut everyone free because he couldn’t tell who was who. […] He had a job to do, to keep the cattle moving toward the slaughter. Harold could be a rather charming guy, personally. As a judge, he was utterly despicable.
Judge Richard Kopf, prompted by Greenfield's post, offered his own thoughts as to why he finds cops credible witnesses, despite loads of evidence otherwise. It's a bracing read and admirably soul-baring, but it's not going to make anyone feel any better about their odds against a lying law enforcement officer. While he makes several points that indicate he's still more careful in his selection process than the Judge Harold mentioned above, he does make the following indictment of his own beliefs and behavior.
I am a shitty judge of credibility. Truly, I am. See here for what happened when I believed a defendant and it blew up in my face with an editorial cartoon and the whole nine yards. Thus, when forced to judge between a cop and a defendant it is safer to believe the cop than the defendant particularly if a judge cares about his or her reputation. While pleading the subconscious in mitigation, there was a period of time when I really thought I might make it to the Circuit if I were a good little boy. See what happened to Judge Baer when he “screwed” up.
Will Baude at the Volokh Conspiracy, who originally questioned whether these five cops would be unable to offer believable testimony in the future, gathered some notable comments from Judge Kopf's post that lend credence to the belief that everyone in the courtroom knows cops lie, but there's very little anyone's actually willing to do about it, partly because the system destroys judges who refuse to play along.

Lorin Duckman, a former New York judge, noted how the system lends itself to accommodating lying cops, if only to keep the system moving at the pace that pleases most of those involved.
It’s not just about the trials. Jurors don’t want to sit, don’t understand the instructions and cannot consider what the sentence should be. They cannot tell if a person is lying or not and tend to believe those who look like them or wear badges, despite instructions to the contrary. It’s not about did the accused did it or didn’t do it, most of the time. It’s about the penalties, the sentences, and the lack of a future when one tries to put a life together after doing time. It’s about judges who need to move calendars, jailers and bailiffs, court reporters and clerks who depend on a steady stream of defendants for their livelihood ...
But Duckman also points out that judges have their own livelihoods to consider, and speaking aloud about the fact that cops lie on the stand tends to short-circuit their futures.
[M]ost of all it’s the Judges who sit silently, listening to the bartering, accepting the stories for fear that they will be removed if they question, dismiss or offer justice. Break my hear[t], they did.

A comment I made, “cops lie all the time,” was introduced as evidence at my removal hearing and served as the basis for finding me biased. I couldn’t have been the only judge who believed that, could I?
The system is broken all the way up and all the way down. These five cops were very possibly only called out because it was unavoidable. Their punishment for being caught perjuring themselves has been desk duty, something that may seem tedious compared to pulling people over and illegally searching their vehicles, but can hardly be considered a true punishment. It's not as though the facts are disputed. The cops are being "investigated" after lying in court in front of a judge and several witnesses. There's literally nothing to "investigate."

This is just two police departments (Glenview and Chicago) buying time until they can weigh possible punishments and outcomes. As few judges are willing to confront the fact that cops lie with the same frequency as other human beings, just as few PDs are willing to terminate officers (partly due to pushback from officers' unions), no matter the wrongdoing.

But before all hope is destroyed, another judge (Alabama's Judge Joseph Johnson) commenting at Kopf's blog noted the status quo is changing, at least in his courtroom.
Yesterday I met with our new police chief (city of 250,000) I I told him I was getting tired of not having video or audio recordings of defendants statements. I said I felt juries disbelieved the rendition by the officer (especially a narcotics officer). I added, I was not sure I was going to believe another citizen consented to the search of his vehicle unless I had a written signed consent to search (which they have). The Chief looked like I had kicked his dog. I said “Hey, the jurors expect this in this age of technology.” We will see.
Looking at this and another set of isolated incidents -- the pushback by two judges against overly-broad search warrants -- gives a modicum of hope that law enforcement will be finally forced to play by the rules that have been existent since shortly after the founding of this nation. It's too little, far too late and it's marked by outliers rather than exceptions to the rule. But at least it's something. And the more the public is informed about the routine abuse of civil liberties by law enforcement, the less those tasked with handling the intersection of cops and civilians will be able to ignore the reality of the situation and blithely (and blindly) believe badges denote a more trustworthy class of human.

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Protests Mount Against Mexico's Proposed Telecommunications Law, Which Would Bring In Censorship, Allow Real-time Surveillance And Kill Net Neutrality (Legal Issues)

by Glyn Moody

from the toxic-mix dept on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 @ 3:41AM

Many people will be familiar with the name Carlos Slim as intermittently the richest person in the world, generally vying with Bill Gates for that title. Some will probably be aware that his huge fortune -- currently listed as $69.67 billion in his Wikipedia entry -- is derived from a business empire based on telecommunications. But as this article in the Los Angeles Times points out, ordinary Mexicans have paid a high price for his success -- literally:

telephone service, both land-line and cellular, is dominated by companies owned by Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, one of the world's richest men, who has grown his businesses throughout Latin America. That means Mexicans pay some of the world's highest prices for some of the spottiest phone service.
Nor is that the only sector in Mexico where business power is highly concentrated:
For years, most of Mexican television has been dominated by a single company, Televisa, the largest broadcaster in the Spanish-speaking world. (Most of the rest is controlled by another single company, TV Azteca.)
On the face of it then, a new Mexican telecoms law that aims to loosen the grip of those dominant companies should be a good thing. But increasingly people are worried that its bad elements may outweigh the good, as Global Voices explains:
Billed as an effort to break up Mexico's notorious telecommunications and broadcast monopolies, the law covers a broad range of electronic communications issues -- and treads heavily in human rights territory. At the behest of the "competent" authorities, the law authorizes telecommunications companies to "block, inhibit, or eliminate" communications services "at critical moments for public and national security." The law also authorizes Internet service providers to offer service packages that "respond to market demands" and differentiating in "capacity, speed, and quality" -- a measure that could preclude protections for net neutrality in the country. To top it off, security measures in the law would allow authorities to track user activity in real time using geolocation tools, without obtaining prior court approval.
That's a pretty toxic mix -- censorship, real-time surveillance and no net neutrality. The good news is that Mexicans are starting to mobilize against the proposed measures:
ContingenteMX, a nonprofit collective consisting of Human Rights, environmental and social network activists and citizens, hereby demands a guarantee that the inalienable right of free Internet access -- established on the Constitution -- be clearly spelled out in Mexico’s Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law. It also requests that the constitutional citizen initiative "Internet Libre para Todos" (Free Internet For All), signed by over 223 thousand duly identified citizens and delivered to Congress in 2013 as a proposal to guarantee the right of Internet access become law.
According to a report on vice.com, people have already taken to the streets in protest against the new law. In addition:
Mexico's human rights commission has already denounced the legislation for violating basic constitutional rights including the right to privacy and freedom of expression. In the coming weeks the legislation will go before the senate and Internet freedom activists are hoping it will get voted down.
Let's hope so too.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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UK Filters And The Slippery Slope Of Mass Censorship (Free Speech)

by Mike Masnick

from the slip-slip-sliding-your-freedoms-away dept on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 @ 12:20AM
We've covered the ridiculousness of the UK's "voluntary" web filters. UK officials have been pushing such things for years and finally pushed them through by focusing on stopping "pornography" (for the children, of course). While it quickly came out that the filters were blocking tons of legitimate content (as filters always do), the UK government quickly moved to talk about ways to expand what the filters covered.

The pattern is not hard to recognize, because it happens over and over again. Government officials find some absolute horror -- the kind of thing that no one will stand up for -- to push for some form of censorship. Few fight back because no one wants to be seen as standing up for something absolutely horrific online, or be seen as being against "family values." But, then, once the filters are in place, it becomes so easy both to ignore the fact that the filters don't work (and censor lots of legitimate content) and to constantly expand and expand and expand them. And people will have much less of a leg to stand on, because they didn't fight back at the beginning.

That appears to be happening at an astonishingly fast pace in the UK. Index On Censorship has a fantastic article, discussing how a UK government official has already admitted to plans to expand the filter to "unsavoury" content rather than just "illegal."
James Brokenshire was giving an interview to the Financial Times last month about his role in the government’s online counter-extremism programme. Ministers are trying to figure out how to block content that’s illegal in the UK but hosted overseas. For a while the interview stayed on course. There was “more work to do” negotiating with internet service providers (ISPs), he said. And then, quite suddenly, he let the cat out the bag. The internet firms would have to deal with “material that may not be illegal but certainly is unsavoury”, he said.

And there it was. The sneaking suspicion of free thinkers was confirmed. The government was no longer restricting itself to censoring web content which was illegal. It was going to start censoring content which it simply didn’t like.
It goes on, in fairly great detail, to describe just how quickly the UK is sliding away down that slippery slope of censorship. It highlights how these filters were kicked off as an "anti-porn" effort, where the details were left intentionally vague.
But David Cameron positioned himself differently, by starting up an anti-porn crusade. It was an extremely effective manouvre. ISPs now suddenly faced the prospect of being made to look like apologists for the sexualisation of childhood.

Or at least, that’s how it was sold. By the time Cameron had done a couple of breakfast shows, the precise subject of discussion was becoming difficult to establish. Was this about child abuse content? Or rape porn? Or ‘normal’ porn? It was increasingly hard to tell.
And, of course, the fact that the filters go too far, is never seen as a serious problem.
The filters went well beyond what Cameron had been talking about. Suddenly, sexual health sites had been blocked, as had domestic violence support sites, gay and lesbian sites, eating disorder sites, alcohol and smoking sites, ‘web forums’ and, most baffling of all, ‘esoteric material’. Childline, Refuge, Stonewall and the Samaritans were blocked, as was the site of Claire Perry, the Tory MP who led the call for the opt-in filtering. The software was unable to distinguish between her description of what children should be protected from and the things themselves.

At the same time, the filtering software was failing to get at the sites it was supposed to be targeting. Under-blocking was at somewhere between 5% and 35%.

Children who were supposed to be protected from pornography were now being denied advice about sexual health. People trying to escape abuse were prevented from accessing websites which could offer support.

And something else curious was happening too: A reactionary view of human sexuality was taking over. Websites which dealt with breast feeding or fine art were being blocked. The male eye was winning: impressing the sense that the only function for the naked female body was sexual.
But, of course, no one in the UK government seems to care. In fact, they're looking to expand the program. Because it was never about actually stopping porn. It was always about having a tool for mass censorship.
The list was supposed to be a collection of child abuse sites, which were automatically blocked via a system called Cleanfeed. But soon, criminally obscene material was added to it – a famously difficult benchmark to demonstrate in law. Then, in 2011, the Motion Picture Association started court proceedings to add a site indexing downloads of copyrighted material.

There are no safeguards to stop the list being extended to include other types of sites.

This is not an ideal system. For a start, it involves blocking material which has not been found illegal in a court of law. The Crown Prosecution Service is tasked with saying whether a site reaches the criminal threshold. This is like coming to a ruling before the start of a trial. The CPS is not an arbiter of whether something is illegal. It is an arbiter, and not always a very good one, of whether there is a realistic chance of conviction.

As the IWF admits on its website, it is looking for potentially criminal activity – content can only be confirmed to be criminal by a court of law. This is the hinterland of legality, the grey area where momentum and secrecy count for more than a judge’s ruling.

There may have been court supervision in putting in place the blocking process itself but it is not present for individual cases. Record companies are requesting sites be taken down and it is happening. The sites are only being notified afterwards, are only able to make representations afterwards. The traditional course of justice has been turned on its head.
And it just keeps going on and on. As the report notes, "the possibilities for mission creep are extensive." You don't say. They also note that technologically clueless politicians love this because they can claim they're solving a hard problem when they're really doing no such thing (and really are just creating other problems at the same time):
MPs like filtering software because it seems like a simple solution to a complex problem. It is simple. So simple it does not exist.
Of course, if you recognize that the continued expansion of such filters was likely the plan from the beginning, then everything is going according to plan. The fact that it doesn't solve any problems the public are dealing with is meaningless. It solves a problem that the politicians are dealing with: how to be able to say they've "done something" to "protect the children" while at the same time building up the tools and powers of the government to stifle any speech they don't like. To those folks, the system is working perfectly.
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NIST Finally Removes NSA-Compromised Crypto Algorithm From Random Number Generator Recommendations ((Mis)Uses of Technology)

by Mike Masnick

from the took-'em-long-enough dept on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 @ 8:17PM
Back in December, it was revealed that the NSA had given RSA $10 million to push weakened crypto. Specifically, RSA took $10 million to make Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator, better known as Dual_EC_DRBG, as the default random number generator in its BSAFE offering. The random number generator is a key part of crypto, because true randomness is nearly impossible, so you need to be as random as possible. If it's not truly random, you've basically made incredibly weak crypto that is easy to break. And that's clearly what happened here. There were other stories, released earlier, about how the NSA spent hundreds of millions of dollars to effectively take over security standards surreptitiously, including at least one standard from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). People quickly realized they were talking about Dual_EC_DRBG, meaning that the algorithm was suspect from at least September of last year (though there were indications many suspected it much earlier).

In response to all this, NIST quickly issued an announcement recommending against using Dual_EC_DRBG, but it didn't finally remove it from its random number generator recommendations until this week -- following through on an open comment process on changing its recommendations.

Following a public comment period and review, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has removed a cryptographic algorithm from its draft guidance on random number generators. Before implementing the change, NIST is requesting final public comments on the revised document, Recommendation for Random Number Generation Using Deterministic Random Bit Generators (NIST Special Publication 800-90A, Rev. 1).

The revised document retains three of the four previously available options for generating pseudorandom bits needed to create secure cryptographic keys for encrypting data. It omits an algorithm known as Dual_EC_DRBG, or Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator. NIST recommends that current users of Dual_EC_DRBG transition to one of the three remaining approved algorithms as quickly as possible.

In September 2013, news reports prompted public concern about the trustworthiness of Dual_EC_DRBG. As a result, NIST immediately recommended against the use of the algorithm and reissued SP 800-90A for public comment.

Some commenters expressed concerns that the algorithm contains a weakness that would allow attackers to figure out the secret cryptographic keys and defeat the protections provided by those keys. Based on its own evaluation, and in response to the lack of public confidence in the algorithm, NIST removed Dual_EC_DRBG from the Rev. 1 document.

In the announcement, NIST also points out that it's reviewing its cryptographic standards development process, to try to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
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DailyDirt: Creepy, Crawly Robots (Bleeding Edge)

by Michael Ho

from the urls-we-dig-up dept on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 @ 5:00PM
Robots that mimic biological organisms can take advantage of centuries (or more) of evolution to perform various tasks. Robot locomotion that cheats off nimble animals could be more adaptable in natural environments -- and animal-inspired bots could teach robot designers about how to make robots that are more flexible in uncontrolled conditions (outside of factories). Here are just a few more examples of biomimicry. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.
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