Posts Tagged ‘law enforcement’

Can NATO deter both Russia and radicalization?

June 7, 2018

Donald Trump wants more counterterrorism action from the alliance. Can NATO deliver? Should it even try? Teri Schultz examines the issues ahead of the July summit.

Germany armed forces in Kunduz, Afghanistan

Donald Trump’s constant refrain to European allies to “spend more” on defense is usually accompanied by a demand to “do more” on counterterrorism. And the US president has made clear he’s expecting to be served a platter of plumped-up policies at the NATO summit in July. US Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison confirmed Wednesday that’s “definitely” something Trump is seeking as a summit “deliverable.”

Although it was the terrorist attack on the US on September 11, 2001 that remains the sole time NATO’s sacred Article V — collective defense — has ever been invoked, it was only Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its brash buildup in eastern Ukraine that galvanized the alliance to dramatically reform and reconfigure itself.

Read more: Can the trans-Atlantic relationship survive Donald Trump?

Counterterrorism has not traditionally been one of NATO’s core tasks, in no small part because it’s a capacity that lies primarily with national governments and their intelligence, law enforcement and police services.

NATO says it’s ‘stepping up’ 

Nonetheless, the alliance feels it has a long and laudable list of achievements officials repeat whenever questioned about Trump’s demands. These include becoming a full member of the US-led global coalition fighting “Islamic State,” in addition to providing AWACS flights, creating a “terrorism intelligence cell” at headquarters, along with a regional “hub for the south” at NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples to provide extra visibility and maneuverability in that area.

Add to these the now 17-year-long war to wipe out terrorist havens in Afghanistan and the training program for Iraqi security and defense forces that will be formally expanded at the July summit.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo in the Oval OfficeDonald Trump doesn’t understand NATO’s job, some experts say

Elisabeth Braw, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council, believes the US should be satisifed.

“Since the alliance is extremely busy simply trying to address purely military challenges, now is not the best time to be pushing members to also focus more on terrorism,” she told DW. “What’s more, it’s not clear how counterterrorism would become more effective by shifting more tasks to NATO. Law enforcement agencies are already doing a good job.”

Read more: How does Germany contribute to NATO?

Caliphate gone, but challenge remains

Former commanding general of US Army Europe Ben Hodges, however, told DW he agrees more focus is warranted. “I think the alliance needs to put more attention on the Black Sea region similar to what it’s done with the Baltic region as part of a coherent defense strategy,” explained Hodges, now retired and with the Center for European Policy Analysis. “We don’t get to choose our threats,” he added. “It’s not either [Russia] or [IS].”

Ian Lesser, executive director of the German Marshall Fund’s Transatlantic Center in Brussels, agrees, pointing out that polls on public threat perception demonstrate that in the majority of NATO nations, Russia doesn’t top the list of perceived threats. Risks “from the south,” including IS but also mass migration, are in many cases much more prominent. “That isn’t just true for countries in southern Europe,” Lesser told DW. “It’s also true for France; it’s arguably true for Germany.”

Lesser explained the south is quite a logistical challenge compared with the single — and obvious — adversary in Europe’s east. “The sources of instability are multiple, and it’s an enormous geographic expanse that involves both land and sea space stretching across thousands of kilometers,” Lesser pointed out. “So it’s also a theater in which it’s extremely important to have effective cooperation with other partner states but also partner institutions, the European Union and others.”

EU-NATO fighting radicalization at its roots

That’s where something new is in fact happening, since the EU and NATO agreed to intensify cooperation at the alliance’s Warsaw summit in 2016. The first EU-NATO staff-to-staff dialogue on counterterrorism took place on May 29. Michael Kohler, director for EU-Neighborhood Policy at the EU’s directorate for development cooperation, told DW that for the first time the EU is contributing money to a program run by NATO called “Building Integrity,” which conducts training and exercises in transparency and accountability to combat corruption in defense and security sectors in a range of partner countries.

It may be the slow road in fighting terrorism, but Kohler believes efforts like this are the most sustainable and effective. “[If] you don’t have a government that creates chances for the younger generation, there’s an awful lot of frustration and in some cases this frustration will spill over into radicalization,” he explained. “So in other words, if you really want to do something against terrorism, you have to treat the symptoms, but you also have to cure the root causes.”

Will programs like that satisfy the US president? Ian Bond, director of foreign policy for the Center for European Reform, suspects some of Trump’s insistence that NATO isn’t doing enough is because he doesn’t understand how the alliance works.

“NATO is not going to start picking up random people who’ve been radicalized on the internet and want to blow themselves up,” Bond told DW. “You’re not going to deploy NATO’s rapid-reaction force to a guy with a van and some knives on London Bridge. NATO is not the answer to most of the kinds of terrorism that western countries are now facing.”


David Davis: Brexit puts EU citizens at greater risk from terrorism

May 24, 2018

Britain and EU must agree new system to tackle crime together, Brexit minister says

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By George Parker

Brexit will put European citizens at greater risk from terrorist attacks unless Britain and the EU agree a new system for working together on tackling crime, the UK government warned on Thursday.
David Davis, Brexit secretary, is concerned that when Britain becomes a “third country” after Brexit, the EU could restrict information sharing and co-operation on areas such as the European arrest warrant.

Mr Davis’s Brexit department has warned that existing agreements between the EU and third countries on crime fighting do not go far enough and would not replicate the close co-operation on security that currently exists between Britain and the EU.

“The security of our citizens must be our overriding priority and that will not be achieved by a marked — and avoidable — reduction in our ability to combat serious crime and terrorism,” a UK government paper, submitted to Brussels said.

The paper on security, law enforcement and criminal justice sets out in detail the concerns felt in London about the implications of Brexit on the safety of citizens in Britain and the EU.

James Comey proves he only cares about himself — Most of the merchandise being peddled here is tawdry — Beneath any great law man or investigator

April 15, 2018

“FBI abused their powers to play politics during the 2016 campaign.”

By Michael Goodwin
The New York Post

The Troubled Tenure of Scott Israel, Sheriff of Broward County — “Failures were paid for with kids’ lives.”

March 18, 2018

The New Yorker

Most sheriffs in the United States are elected to the office. The practice dates to the seventeenth century, when English colonists in Virginia instituted a tradition from back home. (Whatever Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have wished to imply, in February, when he called the office of sheriff “part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” he was not wrong.) Those who defend the practice say that it helps insure that sheriffs are beholden to citizens; critics say that it results in unqualified candidates who are more concerned with popularity than with doing the job well. In 2010, William P. Cahill, a former professor of education at Florida Atlantic University, and Robert M. Jarvis, a professor of law at Nova Southeastern University, published “Out of the Muck: A History of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, 1915-2000,” which provides some evidence for the opposition: the lively and sometimes unsavory chronicle of sheriffs in Broward County, Florida—which has the largest fully accredited sheriff’s office in the country, with some six thousand employees and an annual budget of more than eight hundred million dollars—features bootleggers, bribery, and Al Capone. The book’s postscript goes up through the 2008 election, when Al Lamberti, who was appointed to the position after federal corruption charges brought down his predecessor, held off a Democratic challenger named Scott Israel.

Israel was elected four years later, and he was still in office on Valentine’s Day, when a nineteen-year-old named Nikolas Cruz took an AR-15 to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which is located in Broward County, and killed seventeen people. Israel was praised in the immediate aftermath of the shooting—“What a great job you’ve done,” President Trump told officers gathered at the sheriff’s office on February 16th—and, the following week, he won over many proponents of gun control with his performance at a CNN town hall, where he challenged the N.R.A. spokesperson Dana Loesch and called for additional measures restricting the sale of firearms. (Israel has long supported gun-control measures; in 2015, he wrote an editorial opposing open-carry legislation.)

Then news broke that a sheriff’s deputy had not entered the school’s freshman building as Cruz went on his shooting spree; that a captain from the sheriff’s office reportedly ordered officers to set up a perimeter rather than go inside; and that, over the previous decade, the sheriff’s office had received at least twenty-three worrisome messages about Cruz and his family. On Monday, a Broward County Circuit judge ruled in favor of media organizations that sued the Broward Sheriff’s Office to obtain surveillance video from outside Stoneman Douglas. The twenty-seven-minute tape, which begins just after 2:22 p.m. on February 14th, was released on Thursday. Most of the footage offers an east-facing view of the building where the shooting took place. An officer can be seen in the distance, for the seven-minute duration of the attack, standing beside one of the building’s exits.

Particularly for those who oppose gun control, Sheriff Israel has become a handy scapegoat—the conservative columnist Michael Graham argued that he could supplant Nancy Pelosi as the G.O.P.’s “favorite Democrat to vilify.” But, even among those who agree with Israel on guns, criticism has grown. The crime rate in Broward County dropped during Israel’s first term, and he won reëlection handily in 2016. But, during the last two weeks, in conversations with multiple former colleagues and associates of Sheriff Israel, I was told again and again that, since taking office, Israel has failed to engage sufficiently in the essential if unglamorous work of overseeing law enforcement in a large and complex U.S. county, and that he was overly focussed on the politics of prolonging his tenure. (Israel’s public-information officer, when presented with a list of claims made by people I’ve spoken to, described them as “shameful, baseless, and patently false.”) Those concerns have deepened since the Stoneman Douglas shooting. Jeff Bell, president of the Broward County Sheriff’s Deputies Association and a deputy, who has been with the B.S.O. for twenty-two years, said, “We feel like we’ve been deserted. A ship at sea, just drifting. No sense of direction whatsoever.” A former senior employee of the B.S.O., who asked not to be named, told me, of Israel, “If he survives this, morale will never be the same. And it’s already as bad as it’s ever been.”

Some of Israel’s harshest critics are among those who worked to get him elected. Before seeking the office, Israel, who’s from New York, had been chief of police for tiny North Bay Village, in Miami-Dade County. He had also been a Republican—he switched parties in order to run in Broward, which is historically Democratic. Judith Stern was Israel’s campaign manager in 2008. “We had a lot of work to do to get him appropriately ready as a candidate,” she told me. “He wasn’t a brain guy. He was a cop who was generally liked by other cops. So we made sure to surround him with real law-enforcement pros, to educate him.” But Stern ultimately came to believe that Israel was opportunistic and would say what people wanted to hear in order to get elected. Stern, like Israel, is Jewish, and she was surprised, she said, to learn that he did not regularly attend synagogue. “I’m like, ‘That jerk. I’ve been going around talking to rabbis about your Jewishness!’” (Broward has one of the largest Jewish communities in the U.S.) Stern described Israel as someone who “believes in his own ego. He told me he was like a rock star. When you’ve got Roger Stone pissing in your ear saying, I can take you places, that’s when you come out telling the press, after a mass-shooting, I’m an amazing leader.”

Roger Stone, the political consultant and conspiracy theorist who has worked for Nixon, Reagan, and Trump, among others, didn’t start saying nice things about Israel until 2012, when he assisted on Israel’s second, successful run for sheriff. In 2011, he called Israel “an unqualified punk, a racist, and a thief.” (He supported Lamberti in 2008.) The next year, he helped get Israel elected. After he won, a former B.S.O. commander named Sam Frusterio, who acted as Israel’s campaign treasurer during his first bid but supported his opponent in 2012, filed an ethics-committee complaint against him for illegal acceptance of gifts. Israel and his family had taken a cruise to the Bahamas on a lavish yacht that belonged to a construction-company founder and owner of strip clubs who’d donated a reported $245,000 to Israel’s campaign. Israel told the Sun-Sentinel, “I’m a man of honor, I’m a man of courage, I’m a man of decency.” The Florida Commission on Ethics determined there was probable cause in the case, but declined to take action because Israel lacked political experience and had relied on the advice of his lawyer. Israel characterized Frusterio, at the time, as a disgruntled former employee. Frusterio, who is now seventy-two and living in Bluffton, South Carolina, told me that his concerns about Israel began during the first campaign. “As time went on, I realized this guy was power-hungry and didn’t care who he stepped on or what he did to get there,” he said.

The former senior B.S.O. employee, who worked at the sheriff’s office for decades, had other complaints about Israel. “We never talked about crime,” he said. He added, “We had monthly crime meetings with the district folks, but Israel never sat in and talked to us about it—not a burglary, not a robbery—never.” Instead, he said, Israel preferred to discuss community events. “He wanted to make sure we had all the parades and block parties covered. Even during hurricane season, the guy never sat us down and said, ‘O.K., where are we with the hurricane plan?’ ” Israel, he said, “was more interested in branding, putting his picture on the side of trucks. He’d say, ‘I’m the most visible sheriff ever.’ I’d be visible, too, if I never came in the office. The guy didn’t spend twenty hours a week there.” A deputy who currently works at the B.S.O. also could not recall “ever hearing Israel talk in detail about crime.”

Other people who worked in the sheriff’s office described Israel as “a hothead” and “crazy,” someone who would scream at them one minute and a few minutes later act as though nothing had happened. “We all felt like we were walking on eggshells with Israel, because you never knew what mood you were going to get,” Phyllis Massey Lind, a former B.S.O. executive assistant who worked for Israel and who still lives and works in Broward County, said. Lind told me that the two sheriffs who preceded Israel seemed much more confident in their work.

“This Sheriff has refused to accept responsibility numerous times, in numerous settings,” Lamberti, who lost to Israel in a four-way race in 2012, told me. “Leadership 101 is: the boss is responsible for everything,” Lamberti added. “The very first lawsuit filed, his name is going to be at the top. When I was Sheriff, an inmate in the jail didn’t like the food and I got sued for that.” Scot Peterson, the deputy who was outside of Stoneman Douglas during the shooting, has disputed Israel’s characterization of his actions that day, though, so far, audio and video seem to back up Israel’s account. Lamberti emphasized that a sheriff is accountable for whatever his deputies do. “The deputies are your alter ego,” he told me. “They’re basically the Sheriff. So you are responsible for everything that happens in the organization, including what they do. I was sued when a speeding deputy of mine injured someone. It’s vicarious liability.” (In 2014, two deputies who served under Lamberti surrendered to federal authorities after an investigation into a massive Ponzi scheme; the Sun-Sentinel, in an editorial, called it a “stain on the administration of former Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti.”)

Multiple people told me that Israel had a poor track record when it came to hiring. “He surrounded himself with unqualified people,” Judith Stern said. In 2014, the Sun-Sentinel reported that Israel had made Scott Stone, Roger Stone’s stepson, a detective, despite the younger Stone seeming to lack basic qualifications for the job. Israel later dismissed the idea that the appointment had anything to do with a political relationship. “If his name was Scott Jones, he would still be there,” Israel said. Two years later, the Sun-Sentinel published a story about the many people Israel had hired for new “community outreach” positions who had also worked on his campaign. “What have I done differently than Don Shula or Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Gandhi?” Israel said at the time. “Men and women who assume leadership roles surround themselves with people who are loyal.”

Florida’s House of Representatives has approved an investigation into how the Broward Sheriff’s Office conducted itself before, during, and after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas. (The Broward County School Board, Broward County government, city of Coral Springs, and Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office are also being scrutinized.) The public-information officer for the B.S.O. informed me that the sheriff’s office was “fully coöperating,” and that it believes the process “will insure transparency and public accountability.”

In the meantime, in an apparent response to some of the criticism it has received, the B.S.O. has set up a “fact check” Web site, which currently addresses seven claims about its response, “to assist the public and media in receiving accurate information.” This site, in turn, has been fact-checked by PolitiFact Florida, which concluded that the site was “missing some important details,” and that some facts were “in dispute.” The B.S.O., for instance, asserts that there was “nothing to arrest Cruz over” in any of the calls that the office received about him. But two of these calls, received in February of 2016 and November of 2017, are still under internal investigation and review.

“In defense of the guys who take the calls, there’s thousands of them,” Lamberti told me. “You just have to identify which are serious and which are bogus. We have to do better at that, in my opinion.” Nearly everyone I talked to was unsurprised by Israel’s apparent resistance, in the wake of the Parkland shooting, to take similar responsibility. (When the CNN host Jake Tapper asked Israel, on February 25th, whether his office could have done anything to prevent the shooting, Israel replied, “Listen, if ‘if’s and ‘but’s were candy and nuts, O. J. Simpson would still be in the record books.”) Through the public-information officer, Israel said, “I am responsible for the safety of the nearly two million residents of Broward County, for the almost 5,400 employees of the Broward Sheriff’s Office and for ensuring that if any failures occur, they are appropriately addressed so they never happen again.”

The former senior employee pointed to another major incident, from January of 2017, when a man with a gun killed five people at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. It remains one of the deadliest airport shootings in U.S. history. The perpetrator was arrested in under two minutes, but, as the Sun-Sentinel reported, “a flurry of false reports of gunshots ninety minutes later—many of them coming from law enforcement officers, within earshot of passengers—sparked an uncontrolled, mass evacuation from all four airport terminals.” A report compiled by an independent consulting company later concluded that “the Broward Sheriff’s Office didn’t take adequate control of the response.” Law enforcement, the report said, “lacked clear instructions, objectives and roles.” Israel disputed the report before reading it. “Lessons should have been learned,” the former senior employee told me. “But they weren’t. They just aren’t under Israel.”

Lamberti said that it was essential that sheriffs’ offices study what has gone wrong in the past. After other mass shootings, he said, “we always tried to send people out there, get people on the phone. To learn from these things.” Procedures changed after the Columbine shooting, he noted, because it was all over so quickly. Now, he said, “you go in and engage the shooter immediately, with ideally four officers. But you go in with one, if necessary. You don’t wait.”

“This school shooting was a failure of protocol and procedures,” he added. “The red flags were there. The signs that were out there about this guy. We didn’t connect the dots. It makes me feel like we probably could have done more. There were some failures involved, certainly, and they were paid for with kids’ lives.”

Fact-checking Broward Sheriff Scott Israel — Did law enforcement botch response to school shooting and then cover up?

March 10, 2018
Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 in Parkland, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Facing scrutiny over its handling of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, and its interactions with shooter Nikolas Cruz, the Broward Sheriff’s Office has pushed back with a new website to fact-check certain criticisms against the agency.

Well, it’s time for a fact-check of those fact-checks.

Our review shows that some of the claims about the sheriff’s office response remain in dispute and may not be clear until investigations are complete. That said, some of the sheriff’s claims appear to hold up based on available information. Others are missing some important details.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks before the start of a CNN town hall meeting at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, Feb. 21, 2018. (Photo: Pool/Reuters/Newscom)

Sheriff defends response to ‘missed countless warning signs’ but omits pending investigations

The Broward Sheriff’s Office is under scrutiny for its actions, or lack thereof, regarding more than a dozen calls concerning Cruz before the school shooting. The sheriff’s office’s fact-check said there was nothing to arrest Cruz over in those instances.

But at least two of those police interactions are under internal investigation and review, according to the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Scott Israel on Feb. 22 also said he placed two deputies on restricted duty as it investigated “whether or not they could have done more or should have done more” about the calls.

In two calls under review, received in February 2016 and November 2017, the sheriff’s office was told of concerns that Cruz would conduct a school shooting.

“Third-hand information received from neighbor’s son that Nikolas Cruz planned to shoot up the school on Instagram (Picture of juvenile with guns). One month time delay. Unknown high school. Cruz lives in area,” said the synopsis for a February 2016 call.

Information about the call was forwarded to the school resource officer, a Broward deputy. The Miami Herald reported that the information was not also forwarded to a detective bureau or Broward’s Intelligence Unit, tasked with routinely monitoring possible violent offenders who post online.

The synopsis of the November 2017 call says: “Caller advised subject Nikolas Cruz is collecting guns and knives. Cruz wants to join the Army. Concerned he will kill himself one day and believes he could be a school shooter in the making. Caller advised Cruz was no longer living at the listed Parkland address and is now living in Lake Worth, FL. Believes the weapons are kept at a friends house at an unknown location.”

Details posted by the sheriff’s office for the November 2017 call say a deputy contacted the caller (located in Massachusetts); that no report was initiated; and that in an interview after the shooting, the deputy said he had referred the caller to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (where Lake Worth is located).

Sheriff says it is “false” that deputies were ordered to only enter school with body cameras

In its fact-check, the sheriff’s office denies that the sheriff told deputies not to enter Stoneman Douglas “unless body cameras were on.”

“Any suggestion that Sheriff Scott Israel or any other deputy from the Broward Sheriff’s Office ordered body cameras to be turned on prior to entering the school is false,” the website says.

We traced the claim about a body-camera rule to Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show on Feb. 26. Ingraham cited information from unnamed sources, which means PolitiFact can’t evaluate those sources.

But so far Ingraham is the only person making that claim, so far bringing it up twice. “We have two well-placed sources tell us that in fact it was the case that they were told not to enter unless they had their body cameras on,” she said March 6.

The timeline of emergency dispatchers shows no mention of body cameras.

On March 8, the sheriff’s office released a seven-page timeline of the afternoon of the shooting starting with an Uber record showing Cruz arrived at the school at 2:19 p.m. and ending when he was arrested at 3:40 p.m. The timeline is based on what was seen on the security video and heard by dispatchers for the sheriff’s office and Coral Springs police and fire departments, and includes statements by law enforcement at the scene. The timeline shows no directions by dispatchers or law enforcement about body cameras.

Currently, about 73 percent of deputies wear the body cameras, said Broward Major Jon Appel. The agency intends to outfit the remaining deputies with body cameras in the future. The sheriff’s office announced that it would outfit more deputies with body cameras in March 2016 — at the time about 50 road patrol deputies in a few cities had them. Some of the deputies who work in Parkland wear the cameras (on the day of the shooting deputies from other jurisdictions arrived at the scene as well).

Sheriff says perimeter around scene ordered after, not during, the shooting

The sheriff’s office then tackles a claim that a Broward captain told deputies to form a perimeter around the scene “instead of going in to confront the shooter.”

The Broward fact-check says such a choice didn’t happen, because “the shooting had stopped.” The timeline released March 8 supports that statement. However, it notes that reported times are estimates and the chronology “may change.”

Based on what has been released, at the time of Capt. Jan Jordan’s order for a perimeter, Cruz had left the building.

Here’s how Jordan’s command unfolded, according to the timeline based on security video and law enforcement transmissions:

2:21 p.m.: The shooting begins.

2:27 p.m.: The shooting stops, and Cruz discards his weapon and leaves Building 12.

2:29 p.m.: A deputy says, “We’re heading in the building, in front of the 13 building, building 13. 17K4 and myself are entering.” They were unable to enter building 13 because it was locked and joined other Coral Springs police officers.

“17K4, Lets get a command post set up on south side of the Sawgrass in Coral Springs off of Pine Island. The gate for the student entrance is unlocked. We need to get units in here so we can start trying to find this guy,” a deputy said.

2:31 p.m.: Jordan asks, “I know there’s a lot going on, do we have a perimeter set up right now and everyone cleared out of the school?” A dispatcher responded, “that’s negative.”

2:32 p.m.: Four officers enter the building’s west door, while deputies help extract a victim.

Around 2:33 p.m.: After hearing SWAT units were on the way, Jordan says, “17S1, I want to make sure that we have a perimeter set up and the school (unintelligible), all the kids are getting out, but we need to shut down around this school. Does the Delta unit have an area for all the units coming into the area?”

While the fact-check defends the captain, it omits Israel’s previous criticism of Scot Peterson, a sheriff’s deputy and school resource officer whom Israel faulted for not going into the school. Israel said he saw video of Peterson taking up a position outside the school, when he should’ve gone in and tried to kill the shooter. The agency’s active shooter policy calls for law enforcement to engage the suspect.

Peterson has resigned and in a statement said he thought the gunshots were coming from outside the school buildings.

However, the timeline shows that Peterson warned deputies to stay away from buildings 12 and 13. ​

See also:

What does Broward Sheriff Scott Israel not want us to see?


When Did Broward Sheriff Scott Israel Know the Truth About His Cowardly Deputy?


  (Then he met with the NRA…)

As Broward sheriff touts ‘amazing leadership,’ a low grumble builds in the ranks

March 1, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks before the start of a CNN town hall meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. Michael Laughlin TNS

February 28, 2018 08:03 PM

Updated 5 hours ago

House Republicans Plan Legislative Hearings As First Step to Fight Opioid Crisis

February 20, 2018

Bills to be considered will focus on law enforcement, public health and prevention, and insurance coverage issues

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) questions witnesses during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, concerning federal efforts to combat the opioid crisis last year.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) questions witnesses during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, concerning federal efforts to combat the opioid crisis last year. PHOTO: DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

House Republicans will begin a series of legislative hearings next week as the first step in an effort to pass bipartisan bills tackling the opioid crisis.

The plan from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will hold the first hearing on Feb. 28, will likely require additional funding from Congress, lawmakers said. Bills to be considered will focus on law enforcement, public health and prevention, and insurance coverage issues.

“It’s my top priority as chairman of the committee to get rid of this deadly epidemic,” committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R., Ore.) said in an interview. “There’s going to be money—more money than has ever been spent.”

Two additional hearings will be held in March as lawmakers seek to push a measure through the House by the end of May. Republican committee leaders are already talking with Democrats and the Trump administration about the initiative and have received a positive response, Mr. Walden said.

Addiction experts are in wide agreement on the most effective way to help opioid addicts: Medication-assisted treatment. But most inpatient rehab facilities in the U.S. don’t offer this option. WSJ’s Jason Bellini reports on why the medication option is controversial, and in many places, hard to come by. Image: Ryno Eksteen and Thomas Williams

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) has agreed to bring proposals to the floor, Republican staffers said.

The legislative drive could get significant attention in coming months because Congress and the administration have faced criticism for not providing a comprehensive strategy, or enough money, to tackle opioids.

While lawmakers of both parties agree that opioid addiction is a crisis, ongoing disputes over the right approach could hamper the GOP push.

Democrats and some public health experts criticized President Donald Trump’s declaration in October that opioid epidemic is a “public health emergency” because it wasn’t accompanied by additional funding.

Some health care activists say the drug industry, which contributes heavily to lawmakers’ campaigns, has prevented Congress from doing more. And conservatives complain that Democrats haven’t proposed a way to pay for proposals that would spend billions of dollars to fight the opioid crisis.

Republicans hope new sources of funding will ease the path for their efforts. A bipartisan budget deal that passed this month would direct $6 billion over two years for opioid abuse treatment and mental health, although public health experts have said the amount falls short of what’s needed to address the problem.

Republicans have also said there is likely to be more money for the epidemic through the legislative process.

Energy and Commerce Committee members are working with the Department Health and Human Services, including such units as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

“There’s no silver bullet,” said Rep. Gregg Harper (R., Miss.), chair of the House Administration Committee. “This is really a multiyear, multi-Congress review and attack. There is a desire to help people. This is not a bipartisan issue—it’s a nonpartisan issue.”

The first hearing will examine law enforcement, including a bill from Rep. John Katko (R., N.Y.) would make it easier for certain offshoots of synthetic drugs to be categorized as controlled substances. The legislation has been opposed by civil rights groups that say it would result in overly harsh minimum prison sentences.

The committee will also consider a bill from Reps. Tim Walberg (R., Mich.) and Debbie Dingell (D., Mich.) that ensures doctors can get details of a patient’s past substance abuse history if consent is given.

Other possible bills could allow in-home hospice providers to destroy leftover opioids after a patient’s death. There may also be legislation that would lead to increased use of prescription drug monitoring programs and make it easier for states to share data on opioid use and overdose fatalities, congressional staffers said.

“We’ll start off with bills mostly on enforcement,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R., Texas) said in an interview. He added that legislation must ensure rural counties have the tools and information they need to combat the crisis.

At the same time, the committee will continue pursuing investigations into wholesale distributors who have provided oxycodone and other opioid pills in significant amounts, especially in rural areas, that can wind up on the black market. A hearing the week of March 19 will take place before the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

In January, a bipartisan Heroin Task Force in Congress, comprised of about 100 lawmakers, released a broad legislative agenda for the year. The committee’s work will likely have some areas of overlap with that group.

Still, there is no guarantee the legislative push will go smoothly, since the parties disagree sharply on certain opioid-related matters.

Democrats have called for further expansions of Medicaid to provide treatment, for example, while some Republicans say Medicaid has fueled the crisis by providing coverage for opioids.

Write to Stephanie Armour at and Kristina Peterson at

Nunes’s Russia-Trump memo: What’s in it (and what’s missing)

February 3, 2018

AFP and The Associated Press


© Mark Wilson, Getty Images |President Donald Trump approved the release of a controversial Republican memo this week.

Video by Philip CROWTHER


Latest update : 2018-02-03

After more than a week of partisan bickering and social media-fueled buildup, the #releasethememo crowd got their wish.

President Donald Trump declassified it. The GOP majority of the House intelligence committee released it. And the public dissection of the four-page, GOP-authored document began.

Here are a few key takeaways:

What’s the gist?

The memo makes a series of allegations of misconduct on the part of the FBI and the Justice Department in obtaining a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to monitor former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

Specifically, it takes aim at the FBI’s use of information from a former British spy, Christopher Steele, who compiled a collection of memos containing several allegations of ties between Trump, his associates and Russia.

The memo says the FBI and the Justice Department didn’t tell the FISA court enough about Steele’s role in an opposition research effort. The research was funded by Democrat Hillary Clinton through a Washington law firm.

The document also takes aim at several senior FBI and Justice Department officials. Among them is former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who it says knew of Steele’s anti-Trump leanings and whose wife worked at the firm behind the opposition research effort.

What’s new?

The memo provides the first formal government confirmation of the secret FISA warrant and that Page was the person being monitored.

Information like that is ordinarily considered among the most tightly held national security information, and it almost never gets released to the public.

Though the memo takes issue with the FBI’s methods, it also confirms that the FBI and Justice Department believed there was probable cause that Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power and a judge agreed – four times over.

The memo fills in the timeline of the Russia investigation, showing that Page was under surveillance for months.

According to the memo, the Justice Department and FBI obtained the FISA warrant on Page on Oct. 21, 2016, and then had it reauthorized three additional times.

Given that FISA warrants must be renewed every 90 days, the memo indicates that the government monitored Page’s communications for nearly a year.

Republican Matthew Gaetz talks to reporers after a six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. © Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

It started with Papadopoulos

The whole Russia investigation, that is.

According to the memo, information about former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos “triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016.”

That’s significant because Trump and his allies in the GOP have tried to undermine the Russia investigation by saying it all stems from the Steele dossier.

The memo doesn’t provide further details about the information the FBI received about Papadopoulos. But it appears to confirm in part reporting by The New York Times late last year that FBI concerns about Papadopoulos started the investigation.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year. Court papers show he had several contacts with people representing themselves as being tied to the Russian government starting in the spring of 2016.

Court papers show that Papadopoulos learned the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” prior to that information becoming public.

The FBI did use information from Steele, though

The memo says Steele’s collection of reports “formed an essential part” of the FISA application for Page, but it doesn’t specify exactly what information was used or how much.

It also says that the FISA application relied on a September 2016 Yahoo News article, and claims that the information in the article also came from Steele.

The document quotes former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as telling the House intelligence committee in December that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought” from the FISA court “without the Steele dossier information.”

According to the memo, the application also included “Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters.”

No underlying information released

The accuracy of the memo is hard to assess because the majority of the underlying contents are classified or confidential.

The memo cites an initial FISA warrant application – a document which usually has dozens of pages – as well as three additional renewals by the court. None of those documents are public.

The same is true of the transcripts of the committee’s closed-door interviews with McCabe and other senior FBI officials who had contact with Steele.

On Friday, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, took issue with the memo’s characterization of McCabe’s comments, saying the former FBI deputy director was speaking generally about how any FISA application relies on “each and every component” included.

But the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, said late Friday on Fox News the description of McCabe’s comments is “a summation of a long interview and that’s definitely what he said.” He noted that other witnesses have said “similar things.”

‘Minimally corroborated’

It’s been a burning question ever since the dossier was published by Buzzfeed News last year: How much did the FBI corroborate?

According to the memo, not much at the time the FBI obtained the FISA warrant on Page. The memo cites FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap as saying FBI corroboration of the dossier was in its “infancy” when the court authorized the first FISA warrant.

It also says an “independent unit” in the FBI conducted a “source validation report” on Steele’s memo and found it “only minimally corroborated.”

But without the underlying documents or transcripts of Priestap’s testimony, it’s hard to judge the accuracy of the memo’s description.



Thank Progressives for the Nunes Memo

February 3, 2018

House Republicans released a secret memo on Friday that alleges that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials misused their authority in conducting surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. It also claims the officials abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process by citing dubious information in their application for a warrant to wiretap Mr. Page.

The move is nakedly partisan, and it certainly seems as if Republicans are trying to discredit the investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling. The Republicans, members of the House Intelligence Committee, refused to share the memo with their Senate counterparts. And they also rejected a bid to to release a Democratic rebuttal at the same time as the memo.

The memo is a shame. But those on the left denouncing its release should realize that it was progressive and privacy advocates over the past several decades who laid the groundwork for the Nunes memo — not Republicans. That’s because the progressive narrative has focused on an assumption of bad faith on the part of the people who participate in the FISA process, not the process itself.

In 1978, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act after hearings exposed the F.B.I.’s egregious practice of illegally spying on civil rights leaders, black nationalists, Communists and Vietnam War protesters. The Supreme Court has left open the possibility of a narrow “foreign intelligence exception” to the warrant requirement for the executive branch. Nonetheless, FISA requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before conducting foreign intelligence surveillance on Americans. The act also created a special court where federal judges would vet petitions for surveillance warrants.

This makes the FISA process unique because it involves all three branches of government. For example, Congress has created its own rules to oversee electronic surveillance and judges approve or deny the requests for warrants. These are in addition to the internal oversight tools that the executive branch has. The checks and balances for FISA are quite robust compared to the ones that exist for other presidential national security powers like the authority to approve drone strikes.

I know firsthand that it’s difficult to get a FISA warrant. From 2002 to 2005, when I was an F.B.I. agent conducting counterintelligence investigations in New York, my FISA applications went through many layers of approval and required very strong evidence. It was clear to me that the process was set up to protect against abuses of power.

This process has been in place for 40 years and the Republican Party has never meaningfully objected to it — until now. It’s important to realize that it’s not the FISA system itself that Republicans believe is the problem, but the people involved. That’s a complaint they share with progressives.

In criticizing the FISA process, the left has not focused so much on fixing procedural loopholes that officials in the executive branch might exploit to maximize their legal authority. Progressives are not asking courts to raise the probable cause standard, or petitioning Congress to add more reporting requirements for the F.B.I. Instead, progressives complain that law enforcement officials, along with judges, will always act in bad faith and try to circumvent the law altogether — and that’s why the FISA process can’t be trusted.

Philippine lawyers Blast President for Constantly Threatening Martial Law — “What is with the insatiable appetite for martial law powers?” — “Martial law has a chilling effect…”

January 24, 2018
 / 06:57 PM January 24, 2018

Martial law in Mindanao is nothing but a tactic being used by President Rodrigo Duterte to scare his administration’s detractors, according to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL).

In a 38-page memorandum filed with the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday, the NUPL said that the Duterte administration had only been taking advantage of the declaration’s “partly psychological” effect on the populace.

“Clearly, another extension – this time for a much longer period – would result in an increase in human rights abuses. But why the uncontrollable desire for the extension? What is with the insatiable appetite for martial law powers?” the group stressed.

Image may contain: 1 person, hat and closeup

“Martial law is the President’s ultimate scare tactic,” the NUPL said. “Martial law has a chilling effect and as Respondent AFP Chief admitted during the oral arguments, the declaration is ‘partly psychological’ as it pictures and embeds in the minds of the populace that a ‘strong authority is in charge’.”

Gen. Rey Guerrero, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), had recommended to Congress the extension of martial law for its “psychological impact” on law enforcement in the region.

READ: Drilon: Martial law for ‘psychological impact’ invalid basis for extension

According to the NUPL, the impact the AFP wants to sustain unequivocally frustrates and circumvents the constitutional safeguards against human rights abuses an the unbridled exercise of presidential powers.

“These safeguards were borne out of the lessons and experience as a nation and a people under the Marcos dictatorship,” the NUPL said.

“Historical and contemporary experiences indubitably prove that the monster of martial law has targeted and will target civilians who have no participation at all in any armed uprising or struggle,” the group said.

The petitioners said the inclusion of alleged “coddlers,” “supporters,” and “financiers” in quelling the reported rebellion would open the floodgates to further attacks against anyone.

“The vagueness and ambiguity of said pronouncement sends a chilling effect that violates the people’s right to exercise vital freedoms and liberties,” the NUPL said.

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people standing

Moreover, the NUPL asserted that martial law was not intended for armed groups but for those opposing the government.

The petitioners noted how Duterte showed a lack of tolerance against those who openly criticized him such as the Church, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission of Human Rights, the media and the courts.

“It is this factual context and concrete situation that the constitutional and bounden duty, not only of the whole Court as an institution but also for each and every individual honorable member of this Court, to exercise judicial review to check on abuse of power, protect and defend freedoms and liberties, and breathe life, guidance and inspiration to its role as a supposed last bastion of democracy instead of allowing it to be an empty shibboleth to the delight and pleasure of fleeting tyrants of any time,” the NUPL said. /atm

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Related: Junta, Martial Law

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Image result for Nora Acielo, still clutching the school bag, philippines, photos

In this Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 photo, people and a policeman looking at the body of a woman, later identified by her husband as that of Nora Acielo, still clutching the school bag of her child, are reflected in a pool of water after she was shot by still unidentified men while walking with her two children to school at a poor neighborhood in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Police said the killing of Acielo was the 13th recorded drug-related case in the past 24 hours in President Rodrigo Duterte’s unrelenting war on drugs. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

Philippines: Human Rights Watch director Phelim Kline also said the numbers of fatalities in the drug war launched by President Rodrigo Duterte when he assumed office on June 30, 2016, are “appalling but predictable” since he (Duterte) vowed to “forget the laws on human rights.”