Tag Archives: DOJ


Mikulski to Attorney General Lynch: ‘Restore that trust’ between police, communities

By Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Thursday that improving police-community relations is important in the wake of incidents in Baltimore, Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere, but the Justice Department’s primary goal is to protect Americans from terrorists and other national security threats.

“Our most important objective must continue to be protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our national security,” she said.

The hearing marked Lynch’s first testimony on the Hill since her April 23 confirmation as Eric Holder’s replacement at the Department of Justice. A few days earlier, she had visited Baltimore in the wake of uprisings stemming from the April 19 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore Police Department custody. Six officers have been charged. The Justice Department has launched an investigation of the Baltimore Police Department at the request of the city’s mayor.

Lynch identified improving police-community relations as one of her chief priorities in her new post, alongside “safeguarding our national security” and “defending the most vulnerable among us.”

Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Baltimore native, urged Lynch to help bridge the gap between police departments and wary communities during a Thursday hearing by the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

“In many cities throughout the country, and including my own town of Baltimore, and in communities primarily that have significant populations of color, there has been now a tired, worn and even broken trust between the community and the police department,” Mikulski told Lynch during the hearing. “We’ve got to restore that trust.”

Mikulski suggested ethical training courses on the use of force and bias based on race and ethnicity should be mandatory for Department of Justice grant funding of local police departments.

Lynch started off her testimony by aligning herself with law enforcement officers, remembering two who lost their lives on the job in the past week (in New York and Idaho, respectively) and calling for increased sympathy for cops.

“At this particular time in history, it’s important that we take a moment to consider the contributions and the needs of our law enforcement officers across the country,” she said.

But she also said police must be held accountable for their actions.

“When there are allegations of wrongdoing made against individual officers and police departments, the Department of Justice has a responsibility to examine the evidence and, if necessary, to help them implement change,” Lynch said.

Her testimony touched on her visit to Baltimore last week, citing meetings with local authorities and community leaders to brainstorm opportunities for collaboration, and expressing cautious optimism about Baltimore’s police reform efforts thus far.

“Although the city has made significant strides in their collaborative reform efforts with the community oriented policing services office, I have not ruled out the possibility that more may need to be done,” she said.

Mikulski, who serves as vice chairwoman for both the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, also asked Lynch to revisit “the so-called broken window policy” when it comes to policing.

As explained by Mikulski, the theory behind the policy promotes the prevention of major crime through early intervention with youth when they commit lower-scale infractions. But she said that parts of the policy, such as combating issues of truancy and an excess of vacant homes, are being overlooked, resulting in a broken process.

“Now, what seems to happen is the policy has deteriorated where we’ve stopped fixing the broken window and we’ve escalated to frisking,” Mikulski said. “No more fixing, but lots of frisking, and that’s what our folks feel.”

Watch Lynch’s full testimony before the CJS Subcommittee here:

(Video via the CJS Subcommittee website)

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that, at press time, six police officers had been indicted — rather than charged — in connection with Freddie Gray’s death.

‘Practically irrelevant’ annual report on FISA and NSL requests released

By SB Anderson

Steve Aftergood of the Secrecy News blog aptly called the report ‘practically irrelevant’ and notes its importance “has receded in the wake of the far more substantial disclosures of the post-Snowden era,” but nonetheless, the Justice Department this week officially declared how many times it snooped on us all in 2013.

In its annual report to Congress on activity under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act, (download PDF)  the Justice Department said it made 1,655 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. None of those requests for electronic surveillance, physical search or both was turned down. That total is down about 11% over 2012.

The FBI issued 14,219 secret National Security Letters demanding customer records from businesses. Those covered 5,334 individuals. Requests and people affected were down 7% and 11% respectively.

The report also said it sought “business records” from the surveillance court 178 times, but as Aftergood noted in light of information disclosed in and since the Snowden era began nearly a year ago, “the bland term “business records” extends in principle to everyone’s telephone call records.”

SOURCE:  OnTheBeat graphics using EPIC.org compilation from Federation of American Scientists document collection.

Chilling ruling for journalists

By SB Anderson

A federal appeals court today said New York Times reporter James Risen is not shielded by reporters’ privilege and must testify whether a former CIA official was a source for his book.

“There is no First Amendment testimonial privilege, absolute or qualified, that protects a reporter from being compelled to testify by the prosecution or the defense in criminal proceedings about criminal conduct that the reporter personally witnessed or participated in, absent a showing of bad faith, harassment, or other such non-legitimate motive, even though the reporter promised confidentiality to his source,” the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA said.

A lower court had blocked the government from asking Risen to confirm that Jeffrey Sterling was a source for his book “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.” Sterling has been charged under the Espionage Act, accused of leaking secrets.

In a dissent on the privilege issue, Judge Roger Gregory wrote he found it “sad” that the court had veered from precedent. He continued:

“Under the majority’s articulation of the reporter’s privilege, or lack thereof, absent a showing of bad faith by the government, a reporter can always be compelled against her will to reveal her confidential sources in a criminal trial. The majority exalts the interests of the government while unduly trampling those of the press, and in doing so, severely impinges on the press and the free flow of information in our society. The First Amendment was designed to counteract the very result the majority reaches today.”

Just yesterday, Risen’s lawyer Joel Kurtzberg wrote to the appeals court to say that new Justice Department guidelines on the media exempt from Risen from testifying, NPR reported.

Kurtzberg this morning told the New York Times, “We are disappointed by and disagree with the court’s decision. We are currently evaluating our next steps.”

Steven Aftergood, who writes the Secrecy News blog, wrote this morning that the ruling has “ominous implications for national security reporting.”

He noted that there is “a permanent tension, if not an irreconcilable conflict, between a free press and the operations of national security. The tension can be managed by the exercise of prudent self-restraint on both sides. . . .But the tension can also be exacerbated, as in the present case, perhaps to a breaking point.”

Read the Ruling (PDF) | Bloomberg Story | Aftergood Story | NY Times Story

Journalists discuss impact of Justice Department’s grab of AP phone records

By SB Anderson

The Medill Watchdog interviewed a number of journalists last week, including Ellen Shearer and Josh Meyer of the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative, about the impact of the Justice Department’s seizure of phone records from the Associated Press. It is believed authorities wanted the phone records as part of an investigation into AP coverage of a CIA operation in Yemen.


Maybe it’s just a rounding error?