TBR News January 1, 2016

Dec 31 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. January 1, 2016: “As the year grinds to a close,  replete with cheap champagne and what passes for beer swilled, accidents with drunken drivers, family slug-fests, overdue bills, overdue girl friends and a whole three ring circus of screeching Mongoloids to entertain you. We have perpetual war for perpetual peace and recall that Marx said that the basis for all wars was economic. The United States maintains an enormous, and relatively badly trained, military and uses it to inflict its willl on ecnomic enemies and this to the rising of the national debt, and yearly budgets and all without any long term hope of success. Times change and those who wish to survive, must change with them. This rarely happens. Malthus was dead-on and have a really happy New Year!”

Tel Aviv Plottings

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

It is now planned in Tel Aviv for senior Israeli officials, representing both their political and military establishments, to come to Washington for conferences both with their American counterparts and, eventually, with President Obama.

These conversations, which have been carefully planned and scripted, will have the Israelis advising their American counterparts that they are planning an attack on Iran, nuclear or non-nuclear as the situation develops, because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people.

The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel is now being left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will soon be too late to ask for permission. Insofar as President Obama is concerned, the Israelis are struggling to answer what is for them the most pressing question: are there any circumstances under which President Obama would deploy force to stop Iran from going nuclear? Everything depends on the answer. And if the President were to agree fully with Israeli wishes, i.e., use American aircraft to obliterate the perceived Iranian threat by bombing specific targets, could an Israeli-sponsored domestic campaign to encourage sections of the American public, outside of the fully-cooperative Jewish community, to support such an American attack?

At the present time, it is well-established that Israeli agents, Mossad and others, have inserted themselves into all the instruments of power and propaganda in the United States, and  most e speciallyh in the ranks of the CIA where they have sent any and all  pertinent information to Israel and kept up a steady offensive against the minds, and wills, of the American people.

Also, many of the more prominent American newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post are entirely Jewish-owned, the former is stated to be the most receptive to the needs of both Washington and Tel Aviv. Israel is fully prepared to take a chance on permanently alienating American affection in order to make a high-risk attempt at stopping Iran. If Iran retaliates against American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, the consequences for Israel’s relationship with America’s military leadership could be catastrophic.

It has been seriously discussed in Tel Aviv, and in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, that probably the best way to compel the American public, and through them, the President, to launch an attack on Tehran is through a false-flag operation. This would consist of a believable attack, or attempted attack, on a major American target a la the 9/11 Saudi-supported attacks.

The most current plan would be for a known militant Arab and anti-Israel group, Hizbollah, to actually deliver an atomic device to the city of New York, or, alternatively, to Washington.

The American Central Intelligence Agency, now seeking to reshape its negative image, would report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the exact details of the arrival and placement of the bomb.

The actual bomb would be genuine but would have a part that was malfunctioning, thus rendering the weapon impossible to detonate. The Arabs involved in this delivery would have in their number, a Yemeni Jew, such as the ones that instigated the 9/11 Saudi attacks, and this sleeper would carry numerous forged documents “proving” that Tehran was directly behind this planned attack.

Revelation of these documents by the fully-supportive New York Times and Washington Post would immediately swing a significant bulk of the American public behind an immediate attack on Tehran with the purpose of neutralizing its atomic weapons capacity.

This program is now on the table and undercover Israeli agents, posing as top-level Iranian operatives, have located a small group of Hizbollah in Lebanon who would be willing to deliver and prepare this device in New York or, as an alternative, Washington itself. Israeli intelligence feels that the use of Hizbollah personnel would entirely justify their obliterating Hizbollah territory in southern Lebanon that now house many thousands of long-range surface to surface missiles that could easily reach Tel Aviv and other vital Israeli targets.

This action, which has already been planned in detail, would be conducted by Israel alone and would compliment the projected American attack on Tehran. Israel stresses the fact that both attacks must be simultaneous lest a forewarned  Hezbollah launch rocket attacks on Israel upon hearing of the American attack. Timing here is considered to be absolutely vital.  


Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.




Conversation No. 56

Date: Thursday, January 2, 1997

Commenced: 1:35 PM CST

Concluded: 2:10 PM CST


RTC: A New Year, Gregory. Will we see it out, do you think?

GD: Probably. Unless, of course, we have the Rapture and you and I are left behind. Are you particularly religious, Robert? If you are, I will refrain from comment so soon after the celestial birthday.

RTC: Nominal, just nominal. Say what you like.

GD: I don’t know if you want that, Robert. I have very strong views on some aspects of religion.

RTC: A Christmas indulgence from me, Gregory.

GD: Every society needs a moral core. Mostly, Robert, religion supplies this. For the Nazis and the Communists, Hitler and Stalin supplied the religious themes, but not here. Why is America the compost heap that produces, not flies from maggots, but the Christian Jesus freaks out of absolutely nothing but pulp fiction? The Gospels are all forgeries, written a long time after the events depicted in them and they have been constantly changed over the centuries to reflect various political and economic needs. I mean, Robert, that there is not one bloody word in the New Testament depictions of Jesus that could be considered to have even a gram of historical accuracy. I could go on for hours about this subject, but the whole fabric of the Christian conservatives or the rampant Jesus freaks is that their dogma is based on total and very clear fraud. The so-called Battle of Armageddon, for example, is nowhere in the Bible…

RTC: Are you serious?

GD: Look it up, Robert. Revelations 16:16 is the sole mention of it. Just a geographical name, that’s all. No blitzkrieg of Jesus versus the Evil Ones. Nothing at all. It was all pure invention.

RTC: Well, if not in the Bible, who made it up?

GD: One Charles Fox Parham, that’s who made it up. He was a very nasty type who ran a bi-racial church in Los Angeles around the turn of the century, before he was chased out. And, of course, he did time in jail for defrauding his flock of money and, more entertainingly, buggering little boys in the fundament. Oh my yes, he made up the whole Rapture story and ranted on endlessly about a fictional Battle of Armageddon. It’s like having the Church of the Celestial Easter Bunny or the Divine Santa Claus. At least there really was a Saint Nicholas, but the Easter Bunny is as fictitious as Jesus the Water Walker.

RTC: I don’t recall learning about that as a child at all.

GD: Of course not, you belong to the original Christian church, Robert, not one of the later cults. Neither the Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox people have this silly Rapture business anywhere in their early literature. This was a fiction started up at the beginning of this century by some nut named Blackstone who claimed that Jesus was coming. I think the word ‘rapture’ didn’t come I into use until about 1910. It’s just more nut fringe fiction, nothing more.

RTC: Well, I haven’t had much in the way of contact with these people except to chase off the Jehovah’s Witnesses who bang on my door and try to shove all kinds of pamphlets on me. In the long run, Gregory, you should learn to avoid the lunatics and concentrate on more important issues. There are always nuts. Didn’t they burn witches in Salem?

GD: The same types, only then they were in power. Now they lust after power so they can shove their fictional crap onto the sane part of society.

RTC: Well, then, what about the ones who don’t believe in evolution?

GD: The same types. We have them across the street. Told me yesterday the world was only 6,000 years old and dinosaurs and men commingled in Kansas somewhere. You can’t tell these people anything. They just keep repeating that whatever fiction you go after is in the Bible. When you ask them to show you, they get angry. Nuts always get angry when you puncture their fantasy balloons.

RTC: And Armageddon? I vaguely recall something about a battle between the Antichrist somewhere.

GD: But not in the Bible. The only reference to Armageddon is Revelations 16:16 and it just mentions the name of the place, nothing about a battle, Jesus, Satan, the Antichrist or my cousin Marvin. Nothing. But when you tell the nuts this, they almost froth at the mouth. They’ll tell you the battle is there and when you make them open their chrome-plated Bible and look, they flip back and forth and get more and more upset. Of course it isn’t there so they make faces and later they tell me, with great triumph, that they asked Pastor Tim and he said it was all there. Of course when I ask them for chapter and verse, they don’t have it.

RTC: Gregory, a word of fatherly advice here. Why bother with these idiots? Who cares what they believe? Are they of use to you in some project? If they are, be patient and go along with them. If they aren’t, drop them.

GD: But they are annoying. Robert, if I told you the Japanese attacked Spain in 1941, wouldn’t such stupidity annoy you? RTC: No, it wouldn’t. When I was in harness, I heard worse than the babbling of the Jesus nuts, believe me. Senior Company people acting like spoiled children because no one listened to their pet theories about this country, that economy, that head of state, that foreign political party and on and on. Sometime…. no, more often than I liked, some rabid lunatic did us all kinds of damage, as witness the Gottleib mind control stupidity. People like that, Gregory, should be taken out for a trip on your boat or a walk in the Pine Barrens and simply shot. What did Joe Stalin say? ‘No man…no problem.” I often had to listen to these boring nuts, but you don’t. I had to make excuses to get away from them, but you don’t have to deal with them in the first place. Most small-minded people fixate on something utterly unimportant and think they have discovered the wheel. Yes, I agree that religious loonies are probably the worst, but, believe me, the political experts are almost as bad. They hop up and down shouting, ‘Listen to me! Listen to me!’ And who gives a damn what they think? No, I agree with you about the Jesus freaks but there are legions, I say, legions of others that are just as fixated, just as crazy, just as annoying, so you would be far better served if you just shut them out of your mind and turned your talents to other matters more important. Take some comfort in the thought that just as their lights go out and the darkness swallows them that they realize in the last second that there is no heaven, no Jesus and nothing but the embalmer’s needle and the worms. Nothing. But then their brains have turned to Jello and they don’t care anymore because they have returned to the dirt that they came from.

GD: I agree, Robert, I agree with you, but I still get annoyed. But these nuts, and you can add the Jewish Holocaust nuts to the pile, demand you do not say this or read that or watch that movie. They aren’t content to live in their basements and talk to themselves or tyrannize over their poor children and wives, so they rush out into the street and issue orders as if anyone cared or worse, as if they really mattered. That I object to strongly. I have waded through tens of thousands of pages of official German papers and I can tell you, without any doubt, that the Germans did not gas millions of Jews. What do these creeps do? They tell the archives to seal the papers that make them out professional liars and attack anyone who dares to question them. The holocausters and the Jesus freaks are cut from the same piece of God’s underwear. I think the dirty parts to be sure.

RTC: (Laughter) Oh, Gregory, such passion for so little. They both think they are really important and that people actually listen to them, and even care about their unimportant obsessions. Ignore the Jews, too, Gregory, like you should ignore the Jesus freaks.

GD: Ah, but the Jews control the media and most of the publishing houses. If you write, you don’t get published. Now if I made up some fantasy that said the Germans burned two hundred million Jewish babies, I would be a best seller, number one on The New York Times book reviews and a great one on the lecture and TV interview circuit. Of course about ten people would read my fictions, but no one would be rude enough to talk about that. Christ, most of the Holocaust books are pure fiction and the rantings about the Rapture are right in with them.

RTC: Well, I can see some sense here and I admit it is difficult to get away from obnoxious Hebrews, but why not try? I find that if you ignore people like this, eventually they will go away and annoy people in public lavatories. Just another step to oblivion.

GD: I really shouldn’t bore you with you with my own obsessions but I do not suffer fools gladly.

RTC: God, there are so many of them.

GD: I remember my grandfather and one of his pet comments to bombastic idiots he encountered at social functions. He would smile and say, ‘I beg your pardon, sir, but are you anybody in particular?’

RTC: (Laughter) I don’t suppose any of the gas bags got that.

GD: No, but grandfather did, and so did I. I remember once my mother started yelling at me non-stop because I had come in late from a night with the ladies and the bottle. I listened to her rantings for about an hour and finally, after she ran out of steam, she asked me if I had anything to say and I told her, very politely, that I had been trying to tell her for the longest time that she had some hairpins coming loose just over her right ear.

RTC:(Laughter) My Lord, Gregory, what a put-down. Whatever did she do?

GD: She was so worn out shouting that she just stared at me with her mouth open and before she could get her wind back, I went in my room and locked the door. She stood in front of it yelling that I was disrespectful, until my father came out and made her go back into the house because the lights were going on in the neighbor’s homes. I had a warm and caring family life, Robert, believe it. But I didn’t have to listen to the braying of human donkeys all the time. Just the occasional parental psychotic episode. Now they come up with glazed eye and threads of drool dripping from their mouths while they clutch at you and screech, ‘Jesus, Jesus,’ or ‘six million, six million.’ Oh how I would love to give them lobotomies with a chain saw.

RTC: I don’t think you would have much luck with a lobotomy, Gregory. Most creatures like that don’t have brains.

GD: No, Robert, they don’t. What they do have are knots on the top of their spine to keep their asses from plopping down onto the sidewalk.


(Concluded: 2:10 PM CST)


USSR wound CIA round finger during Cold War

December 30, 2015


Hundreds of agents, whom the CIA was recruiting in Cuba and in other countries of the socialist bloc during the Cold War, appeared to be agents of Soviet secret services at the same time, former chief historian of the CIA Benjamin Fisher wrote for the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.

Such double agents were transmitting a great deal of false information to the political administration of the United States. The amount of such information was so large that it was impossible to estimate the scale of failure of CIA’s intelligence work. As many as 100 CIA agents in East Germany, Cuba, the USSR, and then Russia were engaged in the activities to provide false information to the United States for decades. “During the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency bucked the law of averages by recruiting double agents on an industrial scale; it was hoodwinked not a few but many times,”

Benjamin Fisher wrote. “The result was a massive but largely ignored intelligence failure,” he added. The inability to identify double agents and their disinformation that was fabricated to influence American politicians caused serious damage to the CIA. However, the CIA administration left the activities of such double agents without attention.

To make matters worse, supervisory committees of the Congress did not demand the reform of the whole system. Critics say that the CIA does not pay proper attention to counterintelligence – the activity to counter the work of foreign agents. Many CIA employees described the practice of counterintelligence at the CIA as “unhealthy paranoia.” The inability to identify double agents had tragic consequences for the CIA.

For example, at a base in Afghanistan, a Jordanian double agent, who “worked” for the CIA, blew himself up, having killed seven CIA officers in 2009.According to Fischer, it was the fault of the intelligence agency. For the CIA, it was more important to protect the status and honor of professional agents than to prevent the penetration of double agents. Officials follow their own logic and bureaucratic way of thinking even when it comes to such issues as national security. Benjamin Fischer started his service at the CIA in 1973. During the Cold War, he served in the Soviet division. In 1996, he sued the agency, claiming he was mistreated for criticizing the agency for mishandling the 1994 case of CIA officer Aldrich Ames, a counterintelligence official, who was unmasked as a long time KGB plant.As for the present days, US intelligence services continue spying on the leaders of US-friendly countries, intercepting confidential information. The list of “victims” of espionage includes such prominent figures as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others. –



No human rights policy discount for Turkey’ declares top German civil liberties official

December 31, 2015


Turkey must improve its human rights record before it can justify admission to the EU, claims Germany’s Human Rights Commissioner Christoph Strässer, adding that under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the situation in the country has “deteriorated” drastically.

Asked whether the EU will make any concessions for Ankara’s membership, Strässer replied: “This concern drives me. There can be no human rights policy discount for Turkey. We must not be generous towards Turkey just because presently we cooperate more with it. The EU must stick to its crystal-clear strict rules with respect to human rights and press freedom,” he told Germany’s N24 news website.

Turkey first sought EU membership back in 1987, but its bid has made little progress since then, with key issues like fundamental freedoms and the future of Cyprus proving to be major obstacles.

It seems to me that Turkey is trying to use the situation in Syria and its geopolitical tussle with Russia in order to bring this potential EU membership back on the agenda,” journalist Bryan MacDonald noted, sharing his opinion on Turkish membership in the EU with RT.

However, I think it is ‘pie in the sky’ – it is just kind words they are getting from the EU because they are useful to NATO and the EU at the moment. I don’t see any possibility that 80 million Turks who are Muslims in a largely Christian EU will ever be allowed to join the organization,” he added.

Facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II, EU leaders recently turned to Ankara for help in curbing the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe. Turkey agreed to strengthen its border controls with Greece and in return demanded €3 billion ($3.3 billion) in funding to raise the living standards of 2.2 million Syrian refugees currently living in the country, visa-free travel for Turkish nationals, plus a resumption of negotiations on its long-stalled application to join the bloc.

According to Germany’s Human Rights Commissioner, Ankara is still far from attaining eligibility for EU membership, however.

We need to repeatedly send a compliance reminder to Ankara. In Turkey, dissenters are punished, and there are attacks against the opposition. As long as there’s such a thing, the country doesn’t belong in the EU.If we ignore it, it would be a fatal signal,” Strässer warned.

Ankara has recently come under fire for stepping up its crackdown on journalists, with anti-terrorism laws used to prosecute dozens of Erdogan’s critics, bluntly accused of treason.

“The free space of journalists is being limited in an unprecedented way because there is an order from a sultan who hates independence,” prominent Turkish columnist Hasan Cemal told Reuters in late October. “Freedoms, rule of law, the right to live democratically are swiftly being eliminated.”

Even children in Turkey are not immune to Erdogan’s crackdown. In late October, two boys aged 12 and 13 were accused of ripping up posters of the Turkish leader, which could land them in prison for four years for “insulting” the president.


Spying on Congress and Israel: NSA Cheerleaders Discover Value of Privacy Only When Their Own Is Violated

December 30, 2015

by Glenn Greenwald

The Intercept

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the NSA under President Obama targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top aides for surveillance. In the process, the agency ended up eavesdropping on “the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups” about how to sabotage the Iran Deal. All sorts of people who spent many years cheering for and defending the NSA and its programs of mass surveillance are suddenly indignant now that they know the eavesdropping included them and their American and Israeli friends rather than just ordinary people.

The long-time GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and unyielding NSA defender Pete Hoekstra last night was truly indignant to learn of this surveillance:

WSJ report that NSA spied on Congress and Israel communications very disturbing. Actually outrageous. Maybe unprecedented abuse of power.

Pete Hoekstra (@petehoekstra) December 30, 2015

NSA and Obama officials need to be investigated and prosecuted if any truth to WSJ reports. NSA loses all credibility. Scary.

Pete Hoekstra (@petehoekstra) December 30, 2015

In January 2014, I debated Rep. Hoekstra about NSA spying and he could not have been more mocking and dismissive of the privacy concerns I was invoking. “Spying is a matter of fact,” he scoffed. As Andrew Krietz, the journalist who covered that debate, reported, Hoekstra “laughs at foreign governments who are shocked they’ve been spied on because they, too, gather information” — referring to anger from German and Brazilian leaders. As TechDirt noted, “Hoekstra attacked a bill called the RESTORE Act, that would have granted a tiny bit more oversight over situations where (you guessed it) the NSA was collecting information on Americans.”

But all that, of course, was before Hoekstra knew that he and his Israeli friends were swept up in the spying of which he was so fond. Now that he knows that it is his privacy and those of his comrades that has been invaded, he is no longer cavalier about it. In fact, he’s so furious that this long-time NSA cheerleader is actually calling for the criminal prosecution of the NSA and Obama officials for the crime of spying on him and his friends.

This pattern — whereby political officials who are vehement supporters of the Surveillance State transform overnight into crusading privacy advocates once they learn that they themselves have been spied on — is one that has repeated itself over and over. It has been seen many times as part of the Snowden revelations, but also well before that.

In 2005, the New York Times revealed that the Bush administration ordered the NSA to spy on the telephone calls of Americans without the warrants required by law, and the paper ultimately won the Pulitzer Prize for doing so. The politician who did more than anyone to suffocate that scandal and ensure there were no consequences was then-Congresswoman Jane Harman, the ranking Democratic member on the House Intelligence Committee.

In the wake of that NSA scandal, Harman went on every TV show she could find and categorically defended Bush’s warrantless NSA program as “both legal and necessary,” as well as “essential to U.S. national security.” Worse, she railed against the “despicable” whistleblower (Thomas Tamm) who disclosed this crime and even suggested that the newspaper that reported it should have been criminally investigated (but not, of course, the lawbreaking government officials who ordered the spying). Because she was the leading House Democrat on the issue of the NSA, her steadfast support for the Bush/Cheney secret warrantless surveillance program and the NSA generally created the impression that support for this program was bipartisan.

But in 2009 — a mere four years later — Jane Harman did a 180-degree reversal. That’s because it was revealed that her own private conversations had been eavesdropped on by the NSA. Specifically, CQ’s Jeff Stein reported that an NSA wiretap caught Harman “telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage charges against two officials of American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in exchange for the agent’s agreement to lobby Nancy Pelosi to name Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee.” Harman vehemently denied that she sought this quid pro quo, but she was so furious that she herself(rather than just ordinary citizens) had been eavesdropped on by the NSA that — just like Pete Hoekstra did yesterday — she transformed overnight into an aggressive and eloquent defender of privacy rights, and demanded investigations of the spying agency that for so long she had defended:

I call it an abuse of power in the letter I wrote [Attorney General Eric Holder] this morning. … I’m just very disappointed that my country — I’m an American citizen just like you are — could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years. I’m one member of Congress who may be caught up in it, and I have a bully pulpit and I can fight back. I’m thinking about others who have no bully pulpit, who may not be aware, as I was not, that someone is listening in on their conversations, and they’re innocent Americans.

The stalwart defender of NSA spying learned that her own conversations had been monitored and she instantly began sounding like an ACLU lawyer, or Edward Snowden. Isn’t that amazing?

The same thing happened when Dianne Feinstein — one of the few members of Congress who could compete with Hoekstra and Harman for the title of Most Subservient Defender of the Intelligence Community (“I can honestly say I don’t know a bigger booster of the CIA than Senator Feinstein,” said her colleague Sen. Martin Heinrich) — learned in 2014 that she and her torture-investigating Senate Committee had been spied on by the CIA. Feinstein — who, until then, had never met an NSA mass surveillance program she didn’t adore — was utterly filled with rage over this discovery, arguing that “the CIA’s search of the staff’s computers might well have violated … the Fourth Amendment.” The Fourth Amendment! She further pronounced that she had “grave concerns” that the CIA snooping may also have “violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution.”

During the Snowden reporting, it was common to see foreign governments react with indifference — until they learned that they themselves, rather than just their unnotable subjects, were subject to spying. The first reports we did in both Germany and Brazil were about mass surveillance aimed at hundreds of millions of innocent people in those countries’ populations, and both the Merkel and Rousseff governments reacted with the most cursory, vacant objections: It was obvious they really couldn’t have cared less. But when both leaders discovered that they had been personally targeted, that was when real outrage poured forth, and serious damage to diplomatic relations with the U.S. was inflicted.

So now, with yesterday’s WSJ report, we witness the tawdry spectacle of large numbers of people who for years were fine with, responsible for, and even giddy about NSA mass surveillance suddenly objecting. Now they’ve learned that they themselves, or the officials of the foreign country they most love, have been caught up in this surveillance dragnet, and they can hardly contain their indignation. Overnight, privacy is of the highest value because now it’s their privacy, rather than just yours, that is invaded.

What happened to all the dismissive lectures about how if you’ve done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide? Is that still applicable? Or is it that these members of the U.S. Congress who conspired with Netanyahu and AIPAC over how to sabotage the U.S. government’s Iran Deal feel they did do something wrong and are angry about having been monitored for that reason?

I’ve always argued that on the spectrum of spying stories, revelations about targeting foreign leaders is the least important, since that is the most justifiable type of espionage. Whether the U.S. should be surveilling the private conversations of officials of allied democracies is certainly worth debating, but, as I argued in my 2014 book, those “revelations … are less significant than the agency’s warrantless mass surveillance of whole populations” since “countries have spied on heads of state for centuries, including allies.”

But here, the NSA did not merely listen to the conversations of Netanyahu and his top aides, but also members of the U.S. Congress as they spoke with him. And not for the first time: “In one previously undisclosed episode, the NSA tried to wiretap a member of Congress without a warrant,” the New York Times reported in 2009.

The NSA justifies such warrantless eavesdropping on Americans as “incidental collection.” That is the term used when it spies on the conversations of American citizens without warrants, but claims those Americans weren’t “targeted,” but rather just so happened to be speaking to one of the agency’s foreign targets (warrants are needed only to target U.S. persons, not foreign nationals outside of the U.S.).

This claim of “incidental collection” has always been deceitful, designed to mask the fact that the NSA does indeed frequently spy on the conversations of American citizens without warrants of any kind. Indeed, as I detailed here, the 2008 FISA law enacted by Congress had as one of its principal, explicit purposes allowing the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans’ conversations without warrants of any kind. “The principal purpose of the 2008 law was to make it possible for the government to collect Americans’ international communications — and to collect those communications without reference to whether any party to those communications was doing anything illegal,” the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer said.  “And a lot of the government’s advocacy is meant to obscure this fact, but it’s a crucial one: The government doesn’t need to ‘target’ Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications.”

Whatever one’s views on that might be — i.e., even if you’re someone who is convinced that there’s nothing wrong with the NSA eavesdropping on the private communications even of American citizens, even members of Congress, without warrants — this sudden, self-interested embrace of the value of privacy should be revolting indeed. Warrantless eavesdropping on people who have done nothing wrong — the largest system of suspicionless mass surveillance ever created — is inherently abusive and unjustified, and one shouldn’t need a report that this was done to the Benjamin Netanyahus and Pete Hoekstras of the world to realize that.



Ukraine to investigate suspected cyber attack on energy grid

December 31, 2015

by Pavel Polityuk


KIEV-Ukraine will investigate a suspected cyber attack on its power grid, the energy ministry said on Thursday, an incident the country’s secret service has blamed on Russia.

A power company in western Ukraine, Prykarpattyaoblenergo, said on Dec. 23 that a swath of the area it serves had been left without energy, including the regional capital Ivano-Frankivsk, due to “interference” in the work of the system.

The Ukrainian Security Service SBU later blamed Russia, which has not so far commented on the allegation. The energy ministry in Kiev said on Thursday that it had set up a special commission to investigate what happened.

While cyber attacks are commonplace, few successful assaults on industrial targets have been documented. However, in 2010 the Stuxnet campaign, believed to be the work of the United States and Israel, damaged Iran’s nuclear programme while a 2014 attack shut down operations at a German steel mill.

The SBU said in a statement on Monday that it had managed to thwart the malware, which was launched by “Russian security services”.

“It was an attempt to interfere in the system, but it was discovered and prevented,” an SBU spokeswoman told Reuters on Thursday, adding that the region would have faced a much longer blackout if the malware had executed as the attackers had intended.

The Kremlin could not immediately be reached for comment.

Computer security experts consider Russia as one of the world’s most advanced cyber powers, along with the United States, China, Israel, France and Britain.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine have sharply deteriorated since Moscow annexed Crimea last year and supported pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has complained that it itself has become a target. In 2014, President Vladimir Putin said Russian security services had detected a sharp rise in cyber attacks, particularly after the Ukraine crisis worsened and ties with the West deteriorated.

Crimea has lost at least one quarter of its power after Ukraine switched off supplies to the contested peninsula on Wednesday, a situation that Ukrainian police blamed on unidentified saboteurs blowing up an electricity pylon.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Jim Finkle in Boston; Editing by Andrew Osborn and David Stamp)



Puerto Rico will default on $37m in debt on New Year’s Day, governor confirms

Island commonwealth faces close to $1bn in interest payments in 2016 but governor says it will do ‘all it can’ to avoid shutting down government services

December 30, 2015

by Dominic Rushe

The Guardian

Puerto Rico has run out of time and money and will default on $37m of its debt repayments on 1 January, Governor Alejandro Padilla confirmed on Wednesday.

The troubled commonwealth is at loggerheads with investors over plans to restructure $70bn in debts that have triggered a financial crisis on the island leading to mass migration, school closures and escalating unemployment and poverty.

The island began defaulting on payments in August and faces close to $1bn in interest payments in 2016. Padilla said Puerto Rico would pay $354m of its obligations but will default on $35.9m of Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financing Authority debt and $1.4m of Public Finance Corp bonds, Padilla said. He also warned that the island did not have the cash to pay $400m due in May in Government Development Bank bonds.

Padilla said the island’s government would do “all [it] can to avoid” the shutdown of vital government services.

Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate is 12.5%, more than twice the US national average, and 45% of its population now lives below the poverty line. Padilla has warned its crushing debts have sent the commonwealth into a “death spiral”.

Unlike mainland municipalities, notably Detroit, the commonwealth is legally barred from declaring bankruptcy. Padilla has pushed, unsuccessfully, for Congress to change the law and allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy.

The consequences of a default without any legal framework to restructure our liabilities are so disastrous that for the past six months we have been executing emergency measures to continue meeting our obligations with our creditors and avoid a disruption of essential services to our citizens,” Padilla said in earlier this month. “These emergency measures are unsustainable.”

The US treasury secretary, Jacob Lew, said this week it was inevitable for Puerto Rico to default on its debts. “Look, they’re effectively in default” already, he said in an appearance on Fox Business Network. “They’ve already been taking money out of pension funds to pay current bills. They’ve been shifting money from one creditor to pay for another creditor. That’s effectively default. You don’t have to wait until you miss a coupon payment to say you’re in default.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “Today’s announcement that Puerto Rico will miss additional payments demonstrates the gravity of the commonwealth’s fiscal crisis and the need for Congress to act now. Puerto Rico is at a dead end, shifting funds from one creditor to pay another and diverting money from already-depleted pension funds to pay both current bills and debt service.

This increasingly urgent situation demands swift Congressional action to give Puerto Rico access to an orderly restructuring regime paired with independent oversight. Congressional leaders have committed to act, and the administration remains committed to working with Congress to address this crisis and put Puerto Rico on a sustainable path forward that protects the 3.5 million Americans who live in the commonwealth.”


Ties that bind

The fate of police officers who kill often rests in the hands of the prosecutors they typically work alongside. Amid calls for reform led by the White House, a Guardian analysis reveals district attorneys cleared colleagues in more than 200 cases this year

December 31, 2015

by Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland, Jamiles Lartey and Ciara McCarthy

The Guardian

To win his election campaign and oust the top state prosecutor in Omaha, Nebraska, Don Kleine first needed to secure the support of an influential group of voters.

Promising a return to “tough on crime” priorities, and attacking the incumbent county attorney’s new rehabilitative programs, Kleine clinched the endorsements of the region’s major police unions – and their thousands of dollars in election campaign contributions.

Ever since his 2006 victory, Kleine has relied on the officers of those unions to help him convict everyday criminals. Omaha officer Alvin Lugod, for instance, was called to appear as a prosecution witness a dozen times, according to records released by Kleine’s office.

Yet when Officer Lugod was facing possible criminal charges himself in February for fatally shooting an unarmed man in the back, Kleine saw no reason to step aside. Instead, the prosecutor oversaw a secret grand jury process that declined to indict his colleague.

The case was one of 217 this year where a police officer who killed someone was cleared of wrongdoing in a process led by a prosecutor who typically works alongside the officer’s department. The total represented 85% of all killings by police that were ruled justified in 2015, according to a Guardian analysis. This week, the police officer who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year in Cleveland, Ohio, was cleared in the same way.

Criminologists, civil liberties activists and lawmakers said the arrangements created serious conflicts of interest at the heart of the criminal justice system’s response to killings by police.

Prosecutors work with police day in, day out, and typically they’re reluctant to criticise them or investigate them,” said Prof Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska. Describing Lugod’s case as a cause for concern, Walker said: “A major change in our standard legal practice, and the structure of our criminal justice system, is required.”

In about one in three cases that were ruled justified, including Lugod’s, the criminal inquiry work was done by the officer’s own police department, meaning the evidence used to decide if an officer should be prosecuted was prepared by the officer’s co-workers. Only 12.5% of killings by police that were ruled justified in 2015 were handled completely independently.

Calls for reform have been intensified by unrest across the US following a series of controversial deaths over the past 16 months. Barack Obama’s White House policing taskforce recommended in May that regional authorities should allow independent or special prosecutors to handle killings by their police officers if they want “mutual trust between community and law enforcement”.

Kleine, the prosecutor in Omaha, oversaw the clearing of officers involved in four deaths in 2015 – more than any other district attorney in the US. Their cases only made it to Kleine’s desk because he successfully campaigned to scrap a decade-old state law that had barred him from taking charge when an officer in his own county killed someone, to avoid bias.

Legislators in more than a dozen states are now attempting to wrest responsibility for investigating deadly police incidents from local DAs and hand it to state-level or other special prosecutors. They argue that urgent action is needed to bring impartiality to the judicial system when officers of the state end someone’s life.

You’re gonna get shot!’

Danny Elrod brought the confrontation with Lugod on himself. One frosty evening in late February, Elrod approached the checkout at a Family Dollar store clutching some Slim Jim meat snacks. Then, the 39-year-old forcefully pushed aside the clerk and stole a handful of cash from the register.

Two minutes later, Elrod met Lugod and another officer one block away. Police said he falsely claimed to have a gun, and urged them to shoot. Elrod’s wife said he told them he was unarmed. “Don’t make me do this, don’t make me do this,” Lugod said, according to police, “you’re gonna get shot!” About 30 months earlier, Lugod had killed a day-release prisoner who allegedly reached for a handgun he had dropped.

In a frame from police dashcam video footage of February’s incident, Elrod is seen standing on the hood of a vehicle as an officer points his gun. Police said Elrod reached into his waistband and was then shot while making a “mid-air leap” to a nearby fence. He was struck twice in the back and once in a shoulder.

A 1984 US supreme court ruling holds that a police officer may shoot a so-called “fleeing felon” if he has “probable cause to believe” the suspect “poses a significant threat” of serious injury to others. Despite this, and a pending grand jury hearing, Omaha’s police chief, Todd Schmaderer, promptly gave his own public verdict. “It does not appear to be criminal,” he told a press conference.

Standing at the chief’s side was Kleine, the county prosecutor. All that mattered was whether Lugod reasonably believed at the time that he needed to shoot, said Kleine – “the fact that he may have been wrong in estimating the danger does not matter.” The grand jury decided Lugod had needed to.

Kleine did not respond to questions about his handling of the case. Omaha police declined to release inquiry files or dashcam footage that could confirm their account. Following an internal inquiry by Omaha police, Lugod felt the need to resign. But the department refuses to publish what it found, or disclose why their officer quit.

Before 2010, any killing by a police officer in Nebraska prompted the appointment of a special prosecutor, who could recruit three homicide detectives from outside the county to help investigate. This “removes the county attorney from the process”, according to an annotation to the law, ensuring deaths were reviewed for potential wrongdoing by outsiders rather than the officers’ own colleagues.

But five years ago the measure was scrapped by the state legislature following a lobbying campaign spearheaded by Kleine, who complained that special prosecutors were costing his county $20,000 a year, and his staff “would probably do a better job”.

Kleine has further reduced the opportunity for scrutiny by bunching cases together for consideration by grand jurors in swift succession. One day this month, they simultaneously cleared officers involved in six different deaths. When Lugod was cleared over Elrod’s death, so too were officers who accidentally shot dead a crew member for the television program Cops. While being filmed for the reality show, the officers accidentally struck him while confronting a man with a toy gun.

According to many of those who oppose local prosecutors handling these cases involving their own police colleagues, a centuries-old legal principle is being denied. Perhaps most famously articulated by US supreme court justice Felix Frankfurter in 1954, it holds that justice alone is not sufficient: “Justice must satisfy the appearance of justice.”

Under federal law, judges must recuse themselves from cases when their impartiality “might reasonably be questioned”. In a paper on the prosecution of police to be published in the Iowa Law Review next year, Kate Levine, an assistant professor of law at New York University, argues that prosecutors should be held to the same standard.

If a defendant has any reason to believe the DA is going to go extra hard on them, or a judge is going to be particularly harsh on them, they can request a recusal,” Levine said in an interview. “But a police officer as a defendant is not going to complain about likely pro-police bias from a prosecutor.”

The DA’s client, the public, suffers because DAs have a “structural and unwaivable conflict of interest” when faced with investigating and prosecuting officers in their own jurisdiction, according to Levine, who proposes that they be automatically removed from all such cases.

Connections frequently run deeper than cooperation in securing convictions. Kleine’s biography states that the Omaha police department has called on him to teach “virtually every academy class since 1991” about criminal investigations. According to campaign filings, he has participated in charity golf tournaments that contributed thousands of dollars to police union coffers.

Campaign contributions

Among the 95% of district attorneys who are elected, many like Kleine receive valuable donations and public endorsements from police unions for their campaigns. The alternative, a “soft on crime” denunciation, can be electorally toxic. These unions frequently go on to provide legal representation for officers in fatal shootings handled by the same prosecutor.

Tony Rackauckas, the veteran district attorney in Orange County, California, has accepted more than $23,500 in donations from individual police officers, police political action committees (Pacs) or unions in his county. His cash haul from law enforcement officials was one of the larger amounts identified by a Guardian analysis of thousands of pages of campaign finance records from more than 100 DAs obtained under public records laws.

In an interview, Rackauckas was defiant. “You’re assuming that campaign contributions would require me to act differently because of conflict,” he said. “I can tell you, for one thing, it just doesn’t.” His chief of staff and former campaign manager, Susan Schroeder, intervened to say the notion that donations could create a conflict of interest was “offensive”.

All but one police department in Orange County have their officer-involved deaths automatically investigated and ruled on by the DA’s office. No officer-involved shooting in the past decade has resulted in criminal charges, Rackauckas said.

This year, Rackauckas’s office ruled two deaths justified. In one, 43-year-old Monique Deckard was shot 12 times by a group of Anaheim officers as she emerged from her apartment holding two knives during a paranoid-schizophrenic episode.

Deckard, a slight African American woman, had stabbed a woman at a nearby laundromat. The woman survived with superficial wounds. By the time Deckard emerged, her apartment was surrounded by six officers. Three officers opened fire, they said, because Deckard “strode quickly” towards them.

The shooting was the first fatal incident in Anaheim to be captured on police body camera, yet the footage has not been released to the public. Rackauckas declined to explain, other than to say it was “part of the investigation”.

It was the second fatal shooting of an African American in which officer Kevin Flanagan, who fired eight times at Deckard, had been involved. In 2008, Flanagan killed Julian Alexander, a 20-year-old newlywed, after mistaking him for a suspect in a police chase. Rackauckas’s office also ruled that shooting justified, saying that Flanagan believed Alexander threatened him. A civil lawsuit, however, was settled by the city for $1.55m.

The consequences of falling out of favour with the police lobby can be dire. In Texas, Dallas County DA Craig Watkins was unseated by challenger Susan Hawk this year after police unions ploughed tens of thousands of dollars into Hawk’s campaign, and officers took to the streets to knock on doors for her. Their intervention followed the indictment of four police officers by grand juries under Watkins’ oversight in 2014.

Frederick Frazier, the chairman of the Dallas police association’s Pac, explained in an interview that Hawk was “a better fit for law enforcement”. He accused Watkins of trying to ride a wave of public dissent against police from August 2014.

We’re very open about it,” Frazier, an investigator on a US marshals service fugitive taskforce, said of his union’s effort to oust Watkins. “After Ferguson, after Baltimore, Craig took the easier path, because it was popular. Going against the police was easier, because we became unpopular with the country.” Watkins did not respond to emails and messages.

Two officers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, charged with murder by district attorney Kari Brandenburg over last year’s fatal shooting of James Boyd, a 38-year-old homeless man with schizophrenia, were the department’s first to be prosecuted for a shooting. Their colleagues were furious.

Brandenburg said the department initiated a “hit job” on her after an October 2014 meeting with a police union attorney, where she said she intended to bring charges. They reopened a criminal investigation into past allegations against her including bribery, which she had denied and which the New Mexico attorney general later found had insufficient evidence.

Despite this, Brandenburg was disqualified from the Boyd case and forced to hand it to a special prosecutor. “In essence it was an attempt to get me to resign,” she said in an interview. “I think it was an attempt to take over the district attorney’s office so they could control decisions.”

The conflict of interest problem is compounded, according to critics, by grand juries. These secret panels, which vote on whether suspects should be indicted for crimes, are a medieval relic long since scrapped by all other developed countries and most others as well. Yet they have been used to decide the outcomes of dozens of killings by police this year – about a quarter of all those ruled justified.

In 23 states, indictments by grand jury are required for criminal charges in all serious felony cases such as murder. In 25 others, they are optional and prosecutors may proceed with charges themselves. Nebraska, one of the “optional” states, has a special law requiring that grand juries consider police-involved deaths. Only in Connecticut and Pennsylvania are grand juries a thing of the past.

It is more than 40 years since William Campbell, a senior judge in Illinois, called for the elimination of grand juries, declaring them to be “the total captive of the prosecutor who, if he is candid, will concede that he can indict anybody, at any time, for almost anything, before any grand jury”.

The power of the prosecutor is so great, however, that the reverse is also true, according to Professor Peter Joy of Washington University in Missouri jurors can easily be guided not to indict. Joy said the indefinite secrecy applied to grand jury proceedings means that claims by prosecutors that a killing by police has been thoroughly scrutinised cannot be verified.

We don’t know what’s going on in those rooms,” said Joy. “We don’t know if the prosecution presented neutrally or put their thumb on the scale – either by failing to vigorously question witnesses who favour the police version of events, or by being very hard on witnesses who would favour the person killed.”

Following three of the most controversial deaths involving police in recent times – Eric Garner in New York, Michael Brown in Missouri, and Tamir Rice in Ohio – county prosecutors have held grand juries described by Garner’s family as being more like “secret trials”. In these prolonged versions of the typically brief process, jurors are presented with vast amounts of evidence, along with testimony from officers who do not face cross-examination.

Joy said the process provides “political cover” for elected prosecutors, who can claim to have allowed citizen oversight while knowing an indictment is unlikely. “If you don’t trust a grand jury, you don’t trust your neighbour,” the Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said this week, while announcing the officers involved in Tamir’s death would not be charged. In the rare event that an indictment is returned, a prosecutor under pressure from police allies may blame the jurors.

Notably, in two-thirds of the 18 deadly police incidents so far in 2015 that led to criminal prosecutions, initial charges against officers were filed by prosecutors themselves rather than grand juries. In some, such as the officers accused of causing the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April, a grand jury was later used to affirm charges that prosecutors were pursuing.

The extraordinary process in Missouri after Brown’s death in Ferguson in August last year provided a rare exception to the secrecy rule. And when transcripts were released, they showed “Wilson was not rigorously cross-examined, while other witnesses were subject to extensive and aggressive cross-examination” after testifying against the officer, according to professors Jeffrey Fagan and Bernard Harcourt of Columbia Law School.

No statistics are available for state courts, but federal grand juries vote to indict in more than 99% of cases, according to the Department of Justice. Joy estimated that at state level they declined to prosecute between 1% and 10% of the time with civilian defendants but more than 50% in cases involving a police officer. In Houston, Texas, grand juries have cleared police in shooting cases 288 times consecutively, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Faith in the system has been eroded, with those among ethnic minorities the most distrustful. Fewer than one in five African Americans told a YouGov poll last year that they trusted the justice system to “properly investigate” police-involved deaths. Less than half of white people said they had trust in the system.

At the federal level, Democratic congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia this year proposed legislation that would deny funding from Washington to regional law enforcement agencies unless authorities stopped using grand juries to consider killings by police. Johnson’s plan called for the selection at random of another DA in the state to oversee a criminal inquiry carried out by state police officers. “Any time there is secrecy, you have lack of accountability, and that eats away at people’s respect and confidence in the criminal process,” said Johnson.

Time for radical overhaul

Efforts to reform the system are also slowly emerging from the states. As of 1 January, California will be the first where the use of grand juries for considering charges against police officers who killed people is banned by law.

Of the 18 deadly incidents involving police in 2015 that led to criminal charges, four were handled by state-level prosecutors such as the attorney general, and 13 were investigated by an external police department.

Only Maine and Connecticut currently require an independent prosecutor to handle officer-involved deaths by law. South Dakota and New Hampshire also leave the decision whether or not to charge an officer with the state attorney general as a matter of protocol.

Kevin Kane, Connecticut’s chief state’s attorney, said that while there were downsides to the new system, “the community’s perception has probably grown as a result of Ferguson to the point where it outweighs the other side of the coin.”

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order in July to make the state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, a special prosecutor for police-involved deaths of unarmed civilians or if “there is a significant question as to whether the civilian was armed and dangerous at the time of his or her death”.

But the move was criticised both by Garner’s family and district attorneys throughout the state. For Garner’s family, the order did not go far enough. Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said Cuomo had assured her privately it would cover all officer-involved deaths.

New York’s DAs complained of a power grab. Ken Thompson of Brooklyn said he and his counterparts would be “robbed” of their right to enforce the law locally. Two months later, Thompson charged an NYPD officer with second-degree manslaughter over the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man, in the stairwell of a residential tower.

Other attempted reforms across the country are meeting resistance from prosecutors wary of ceding their territory or accepting that they could be skewed in favour of police.

Rackauckas, the DA in Orange County, California, insisted that special prosecutors would not silence claims of bias. “I don’t think there’s any investigative body that’s not subject to that same kind of criticism,” he said in an interview. “People could say, ‘Well that investigator is in the pocket of the police’.”

Several efforts are also under way to prevent local police officers from carrying out the inquiries into shootings by their colleagues. In Wisconsin, a law passed last year requires outside investigators to examine all officer-involved deaths before handing their findings to the local DA. These investigators typically come from the state’s department of justice. If no charges are brought by the DA, the full investigation file must be made available to the public.

Maine law also gives “exclusive responsibility” for investigating police killings to officers in the state attorney general’s office. States such as Connecticut, Florida, Georgia New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas and Vermont, also typically refer cases to independent or state-level investigators as a matter of practice. While legislators in 14 states have this year proposed laws demanding outside investigators, just two, in Utah and Colorado, have passed so far.

Indeed, while dozens of state legislatures have discussed reforms of the system since the unrest in Ferguson, the debate has not translated into many new laws. According to a Guardian review of state legislation proposed in 2015, representatives in 15 state legislatures introduced bills that would see special prosecutors handle officer involved killings in some, if not all, cases. But none has passed into law, with most remaining at the committee stage.

But the use of outside authorities has not silenced claims of bias and inaction over killings by police. For instance no case involving Wisconsin’s special investigators has so far resulted in a prosecution, and Wisconsin has seen no charges brought in any of the 12 officer-involved deaths in 2015.

In the state’s most controversial killing this year, the case of 19-year-old Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin, the Guardian disclosed that one of the lead DCI investigators was a former Madison officer. This drew criticism from the family of Robinson, who was unarmed and African American. They requested a federal investigation into the shooting. Following the April 2014 fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton by Milwaukee police, it similarly emerged that half the DCI investigators were former Milwaukee officers.

Some critics have called for a more radical overhaul. Levine, of New York University, favours an “outsider-prosecution” system. A special oversight board within each jurisdiction, manned by retired prosecutors, civil rights attorneys, and other expert figures, would investigate officer-involved deaths. They would have subpoena power and the authority to bring charges. If charges were brought, a judge would appoint a private attorney. “I don’t see any legitimate reason why this couldn’t be done,” said Levine.

Joy, of Washington University, said a simpler device could push prosecutors to step aside from cases involving police in their own jurisdictions: the American Bar Association’s (ABA) rules on ethics for attorneys, which state that a conflict of interest exists when attorneys face a “significant risk” that their work will be affected by other responsibilities or loyalties.

Prosecutors, as attorneys themselves, are subject to this rule like any other, according to Joy. Yet DAs appear untroubled by it and the ABA’s 55-page standards manual on criminal prosecutions does not deal with potential conflicts of interest when investigating law enforcement officers.

An expanded rule, according to Joy, would result in some prosecutors voluntarily complying and in state ethics boards issuing similar guidance. “It’s not binding, no,” said Joy, “but it does create a presumption that this is the proper way to proceed.” A spokesman for the ABA said no one could comment on the record.

In 2010, when he testified to the Nebraska legislature’s judiciary committee in favour of abolishing the law that stopped him handling the cases of local police officers who had killed someone, county prosecutor Don Kleine was pressed by a state senator on how he would be sure to avoid bias.

If there was a definite conflict of interest, then I’d have to declare that I had a conflict of interest, and we could get a special prosecutor,” Kleine said.

His argument was: ‘You can trust us because we’re the government’,” according to Amy Miller, the legal director of the ACLU in Nebraska, which fought the abolition of the law.

That selling point works very well only if you’re confident that human beings never give way to favouritism or prejudice,” said Miller. “It is very worrisome.”


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