of the Day
- October 31, 2009
some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local
newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage
of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood
activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible
issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular
point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From LA Times
L.A. faces $100-million shortfall despite cost-cutting moves approved today
October 30, 2009 | 2:11 pm
The Los Angeles City Council faces a $100-million budget shortfall even after passing a trio of cost-cutting measures today that include two labor contracts and a plan for shaving 2,400 civilian employees off the payroll.
The council voted for a two-year pact with the police officers' union that seeks to reduce police overtime expenses by 83% next year and a separate deal that cuts the pay of 22,000 civilian employees by 4.4% through June 30.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said he will present a new round of budget-cutting proposals in December or January, once the city knows how many workers have agreed to retire. But he argued that today's votes represent progress.
“One hundred million sounds like a lot, but when it started out at $400 million, it's much more tangible,” he said.
The council unanimously approved a reworked contract with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents 22,000 civilian employees. Coalition members agreed to increase the size of their contribution to the retirement fund and, for the remainder of the fiscal year, cut their pay by 3.5 hours in each 80-hour pay period.
In exchange, 2,400 employees will be eligible to leave up to five years early with full benefits. Early retirement will reduce expenses by $47.2 million between now and June 30, Santana said.
Councilman Jose Huizar praised the plan, saying it will allow the city to slash payroll costs without resorting to layoffs.
“With layoffs it would have been much more chaotic,” he said.
The council also voted 12-1, with Councilman Bernard Parks opposed, on the contract with the Police Protective League, which represents nearly 10,000 officers. That agreement reduces by 20% the salaries provided to newly recruited officers and will require officers to convert unused sick time into additional days off – a move designed to save $10 million.
The cornerstone, however, is a reduction in overtime costs, which are slated to drop by $45 million between now and June 30. By reworking the way in which overtime is compensated, officers will be able to accrue up to 399 hours of overtime – one and a half times the regular salary -- that can be paid out in future years.
Officers who work a 400th hour of overtime must be paid in cash. Although some officers will delay overtime payments, the LAPD will also need to reduce the total number of overtime hours worked by police, Santana said.
“At the end of the day, there will be a service impact,” he said.
Parks voted against the police agreement, saying it will, in many instances, delay the city's overtime costs instead of reducing them.
“We're deferring costs until future years,” he said. “And when those two years are up, we've got to pay for it.”
Prosecutors won't charge LAPD officers in immigration march melee at MacArthur Park [Updated]
October 30, 2009 | 12:17 pm
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced today it would not file criminal charges against any LAPD officers for their actions during the 2007 May Day melee at MacArthur Park.
Prosecutors said in a statement that after a lengthy review, there was insufficient evidence to prove any officer violated the law when using force, although some might have used "questionable tactics."
They described the incident as "unfortunate and preventable" but said that the office was "closing our file and will take no further action in this matter."
Last year, Police Chief William J. Bratton said he planned to discipline 11 officers and called for the termination of four others for their roles in the melee in which police were accused of using excessive force to clear immigration rights demonstrators and journalists.
LAPD officers were videotaped wielding batons and shooting rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse a largely peaceful crowd. A scathing internal investigation into the incident blamed poor leadership and overly aggressive tactics by officers in the field.
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to pay nearly $13 million to people injured or mistreated in the melee.
Under the settlement, the department must submit to court oversight of its crowd-control procedures -- another layer of federal involvement that comes as LAPD leaders are impatient to be free of a longstanding and more onerous monitoring program imposed after the Rampart Division corruption scandal.
Prosecutors reviewed an extensive LAPD investigation into 30 officers that including 7,500 pages of documents.
Prosecutors said that the series of events led to actions by officers against "both violent protesters and nonviolent protesters and media personnel."
"The media had innocently and unwittingly positioned themselves in an area directly in the path of officers attempting to clear the park," the report noted. However, prosecutors noted, "not every push or shove amounts to excessive force We cannot establish that any particular officer's actions were unreasonable or without lawful necessity in light of the tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances."
Prosecutors added that identity "is a factor which must be proven beyond reasonable doubt."
The LAPD officers union praised the decisions. Union President Paul Weber said the distict attorney's review "sought only truth and justice, and was not influenced by any political agenda."
LAPD has 'strong leads' in North Hollywood synagogue shooting
October 30, 2009 | 10:51 am
Los Angeles Police Department detectives said today they have "strong leads" in the shooting that left two people wounded Thursday morning at a North Hollywood synagogue.
Detective Rich Wheeler says federal authorities are using high-tech equipment to enhance and clarify grainy video footage obtained from the parking garage at the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Orthodox synagogue where the two men were shot as they arrived for a morning service. The footage shows the gunman, officials said.
After determining that the attack wasn't a hate crime and ruling out terrorism, detectives are now focusing on other motives, Wheeler said.
"We are working on some information but I am not prepared at this stage to share that," he said.
Wheeler said detectives may also reinterview the two men shot during the confrontation Thursday. Maor Ben-Nissan, 38, and Allen Lasry, 38, were shot in the leg as they arrived for a prayer service around 6:20 a.m.
Several law enforcement sources told The Times that investigators were exploring whether the shooting was related to a business or personal dispute. The sources said detectives believe that one of the victims was the target and that the second victim may have been shot because he witnessed the attack.
Synagogue shooting unnerves Los Angeles
Word that two men were wounded at a North Hollywood temple spread fast, stirring fears. But police say there is no evidence that the attack was a terrorist act or a hate crime.
By Andrew Blankstein, Robert Faturechi and Richard Winton
October 30, 2009
When the sound of gunfire shattered the peace of morning prayer Thursday at a North Hollywood synagogue, the shock waves traveled fast and far.
Was it a hate crime? An act of terrorism? An isolated incident or part of a wider plot? These were all real fears in a city where, 10 years ago, a white supremacist gunman terrorized a Jewish preschool and murdered a postal carrier, and where police have been on alert for acts of terror since Sept. 11, 2001.
By day's end, authorities had come to believe that the shooting, in which two men were wounded, was probably a far more mundane crime.
"There is absolutely no evidence to support any connection to terrorism or a hate crime," said Mike Downing, deputy chief of the LAPD's Counter Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau.
The gunman, whose image was captured by video cameras, remained at large, with the investigation being led by North Hollywood detectives, not Downing's elite anti-terror squad.
For a few hours, though, the shooting in the synagogue garage set nerves on edge throughout the city. Word traveled rapidly from temple-goers to police to city leaders to members of a joint regional terrorism task force.
The Los Angeles Police Department responded in force. Calls and e-mail alerts spun out to temples and Jewish organizations across the city. Reports were relayed by news agencies and television channels nationwide. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rushed to the scene, joining two of the three candidates to succeed outgoing Police Chief William J. Bratton.
Then, gradually, investigators began ramping down the tension.
According to police, the shooting occurred at 6:19 a.m., after the victims parked their cars in the underground garage of Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic Synagogue, a small congregation on a quiet residential street. Morning services were underway.
A young gunman, dark-skinned and wearing a dark hooded sweat shirt, approached one man near a stairwell and tried to shoot, police said, but his gun jammed.
The second congregant noticed the commotion and approached the gunman, who then shot both men in the legs. The gunman did not speak, according to LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore.
The shooter fled, and witnesses called 911.
The victims, Maor Ben-Nissan, 37, and Allen Lasry, believed to be in his 40s, were taken to hospitals, where they were listed in good condition.
Detectives were working with them to understand what happened, Moore said. They do not believe the motive was robbery, according to LAPD sources, who spoke to The Times on the condition they not be named because the investigation is continuing.
Rabbi Amran Gabay described both men as regulars at the temple. He said one works in home improvement and the other in tile sales. The rabbi said he knew of no reason why either would be targeted, adding: "They're regular people."
A 17-year-old who was detained for questioning shortly after the shooting was released hours later, and police backed away from initial claims that the attack was motivated by religious hate.
Although the shooter was first described as being black, a police source later said detectives were not certain of the suspect's race.
"This investigation is wide open," said Capt. Sharyn Buck, who oversees the LAPD's North Hollywood Division.
Several law enforcement sources told The Times that investigators were looking at whether the shooting was related to a business or personal dispute. The sources said detectives believe that one of the victims was the target and that the second victim may have been shot because he witnessed the attack.
Speaking to reporters outside the taped-off synagogue, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the incident "a senseless act of violence." But he was careful to temper concerns that the shooting was a hate crime.
"None of us should presume or speculate more about this other than it was a random act of violence," he said.
Adat Yeshurun, a congregation of mostly Moroccan and other North African Jews, is in the heart of the San Fernando Valley's Orthodox community and within walking distance of kosher markets and other synagogues.
Yehuda Oz, 53, has attended the temple for 15 years and arrived early Thursday to begin his regular morning prayers.
About an hour later, as he prayed with some 15 others in the sanctuary, four gunshots broke the silence, he said. He heard screams from the parking lot, then saw two men stumble into the temple.
Their blood spread over the floor as people rushed to stop the bleeding, Oz said, but no one inside saw the shooter.
"Maybe it was crazy person. Maybe he was drugged up. Maybe it was a Jew. We don't know," Oz said, nervously adjusting his yarmulke as he stood outside the taped-off scene with two friends.
The temple installed security cameras years ago to discourage attacks, he said.
The shooting prompted the closure of a school next to the synagogue. But about half a mile away at Or Hachaim Academy, also run under the guidance of Rabbi Gabay, classes were in session and the school was observing the anniversary of the death of the biblical matriarch Rachel.
A school official said sixth- and seventh-grade girls recited psalms for the two shooting victims.
"Rachel always prays for her children," Principal Deborah Raskin said. "We take comfort knowing that this could have been a much worse situation."
Alejandro Sisro, 13, will almost certainly never forget what happened Thursday. He came to the synagogue in the morning wearing a new suit, his hair combed, his Torah portion memorized, ready for his bar mitzvah, the Jewish rite of passage. On the way in, he hit a snag -- a line of police tape stretching between him and manhood.
For the Sisro family, it meant calling dozens of friends and relatives, some of whom had traveled from as far away as Argentina and Mexico, to alert them that the ceremony would be postponed. Eventually, it was rescheduled for the evening.
The wait was agonizing for Alejandro. "He kept saying, 'When can we go back? When can we go back?' " said his mother, Naomi.
In the end, the bar mitzvah ran smoothly -- the rhythmic prayers, the handshakes, a pinch on the cheek from the rabbi. The family did have to accommodate a few unexpected guests: reporters and photographers who had been sent to cover the shooting.
"It's not so bad," Alejandro said. "I'll get famous because everyone knows I had my bar mitzvah."
Police await DNA test results on 'Night Stalker' Richard Ramirez before deciding on murder charges
October 30, 2009 | 10:47 am
San Francisco police said Friday that a decision about pursuing charges against "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez in the 1984 slaying of a young girl won't be made until DNA tests are completed.
San Francisco police announced last week that DNA evidence had linked the Southern California serial killer to the 1984 slaying of a 9-year-old girl. Detectives took DNA evidence from Ramirez, who is on death row at San Quentin State Prison, and said they are building a case against him.
But officials said Friday that it would take some time before they get the DNA tests back.
“The crime lab said the results may take from two to three weeks,” said Sgt. Wilfred William of the San Francisco Police Department.
Ramirez went on a murder spree in Southern California in 1984 and 1985. It remains unclear if prosecutors would try him in the new case even with a DNA match.
Ramirez was also long considered a suspect in the 1985 slaying of a 66-year-old man, Peter Pan, in San Francisco's Lake Merced district. The man's wife was also attacked but survived.
That attack occurred during the time of the series of murders by Ramirez in Southern California.
Ramirez was never charged in that San Francisco attack.
Ramirez was convicted in 1989 of 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. But, delayed by problems in getting him a lawyer and preparing the voluminous trial transcript, Ramirez's direct appeal was not heard by the California Supreme Court until June 2006. His convictions and death sentence were affirmed two months later.
Ramirez is continuing the appeals process. If he is charged with additional killings, it remains unclear whether authorities would take him off death row to face new trials. After Ramirez was convicted of the Southern California killings, San Francisco prosecutors decided not to charge him in the Pan case.
The unsolved case of the young girl's killing was reopened five years ago when Police Inspector Holly Pera recalled it from her days as a young patrol officer.
Villaraigosa's partner against crime
The candidates to replace William Bratton as LAPD chief are all strong contenders.
October 31, 2009
Compared with selecting a new Los Angeles police chief, electing the U.N.'s secretary-general -- or, for that matter, a pope -- is a streamlined exercise in political minimalism.
If you were searching for a mechanical metaphor to characterize the process, the words Rube Goldberg probably would come to mind. Yet, given the LAPD's centrality to the city's history -- and the outsized influence of its chiefs -- there's something to be said for a process that opens itself to as much scrutiny and as many voices as practical in a city nearly as diverse as the U.N. General Assembly.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has said that selecting William Bratton's successor is the most important decision he will make as the city's chief executive. He's right. As one of the mayor's advisors put it, "Bratton is a transforming figure" who has remade the LAPD in the spirit of reforms first suggested by the Christopher Commission and, later, incorporated into the consent degree between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice. Still, according to this advisor -- who asked not to be named -- it's the next chief who will "have to make the reforms part of the department's DNA."
Like others involved in the process to whom I spoke this week, this person stressed that the next chief will have a much rougher time than Bratton -- not only because of the departing chief's outsized personal and professional shadow, but because he must solidify and extend the reforms in the face of historic budgetary challenges.
This week, the civilian Police Commission sent Villaraigosa the names of three finalists from among the applicants for the job. All -- Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck and Deputy Chief Michel Moore -- are insiders, something that is said to disappoint the mayor, who would have liked to have seen at least one name from outside, because he thinks of Los Angeles as a place that attracts the nation's best. McDonnell, 50, is Bratton's chief of staff; Beck, 56, is the LAPD's chief of detectives; Moore, 49, is the Valley's commanding officer.
The mayor, who called all three "outstanding candidates," met with each of them at Getty House this week in conversations that included his newly appointed chief of staff, Jeff Carr, and former federal prosecutor Eileen Decker, the deputy mayor for homeland security and public safety.
In an interview Friday, Villaraigosa said that the first thing he did when he found out Bratton was leaving was to call former Secretary of State Warren Christopher to request his advice. "He not only led the Christopher Commission, but he also knows more about the history of the department and about the fight for reform than anyone else in the city," the mayor said. "He also helped Bill Clinton vet his vice presidential candidates and came up with Al Gore. I wanted somebody who could bring that level of experience and seriousness to this process."
With Christopher acting as a kind of chairman, Villaraigosa pulled together a group of high-powered activist civic leaders, who he said have "used their experience and historical perspective to help me create the framework for my own deliberations." Apart from Christopher, the group includes former U.S. attorney and federal appellate judge Lourdes Baird; Stewart Kwoh, head of the Asian American Legal Center of Southern California; Connie Rice, a leading civil rights attorney; and attorney Ron Olson. The mayor also has spent nights reading the Christopher Commission report, the consent decree and the "after-action" report on the Rampart scandal.
Today, Villaraigosa will hear additional advice from Christopher, Rice and Kwoh at Getty House. (He conferred by telephone with Baird and Olson earlier in the week.) The mayor said he'll then call all three candidates back for further interviews. By the time he's ready to make his decision, Villaraigosa said, he will have consulted with more than 100 people.
For his part, Bratton has said he won't formally endorse a candidate -- funny, he had views on every other civic office -- but several of those involved in the process say their conversations with the chief have left the clear impression he leans toward Beck, who also is supported by community and civil rights groups. McDonnell is said to be favored by business and civic organizations, while Moore has support from some of the City Council's Valley members. Villaraigosa said the chief "went over the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate with me."
Council President Eric Garcetti told me this week he expects "that any of the three candidates will be confirmed by the council." Once Villaraigosa announces his choice, the council's Public Safety Committee will hold public hearings. Garcetti said that if lawmakers get the mayor's choice by Monday, a final vote will take place by the week of Nov. 17.
The city needs a chief fully committed to building on the reforms achieved so far. But a strong chief should be the City Council's and Police Commission's collaborator and not their lackey. There's a difference between civilian oversight and civilian intrusion. It will be up to the council and the mayor, working with the next chief, to strike that balance. As Villaraigosa said Friday, "I want a chief who can be my partner in extending and making permanent the reforms."
LAPD chief candidates are far from three of a kind
Superficial similarities conceal differences in their leadership styles.
By Joel Rubin
October 31, 2009
At first glance, the three finalists to become the next chief of the Los Angeles Police Department appear to be cut from the same cloth.
All are middle-aged white men. They are dyed-in-the-wool LAPD cops who came into the department as young men about 30 years ago and took on similar assignments as they rose through the ranks.
Below the surface, however, the similarities give way to distinct differences in leadership, personality and career paths that Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Deputy Chief Charlie Beck and Deputy Chief Michel Moore followed to arrive at this decisive point.
Interviews by The Times with the three men, as well as supporters, critics and neutral observers, reveal McDonnell as the LAPD's gracious, well-liked ambassador who has spent the last several years with an eye on the chief's job from his place in the upper reaches of the department as its second in command. Moore is an intense, hard-charging commander who leads with a firm hand, while diligently -- some say obsessively -- running the department's operations in the San Fernando Valley. Beck, laid-back and seemingly unflappable, has surged from the LAPD's middle ranks into the role of reformer under outgoing Chief William J. Bratton.
"One of the strengths that they all share is that they are their own person," Bratton said. "They have their own ideas."
With the finalists selected earlier this week and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expected to choose the next chief as early as Monday, department observers have not had a chance to do more than sketch comparisons of the three. In trying to make his decision, the mayor decided Friday evening to call back all three candidates for more interviews this weekend.
Beck, 56, joined the LAPD in 1977. McDonnell, 50, and Moore, 49, signed up four years later. All three spent the first several years of their careers as patrol officers in various parts of the city and, relatively quickly, made the jump to sergeant and took on entry-level supervisor roles. With the city in the grips of the crack cocaine epidemic in the mid-1980s and an understaffed police force failing to keep up with soaring crime rates, it was a rough, eye-opening period to come of age as a young cop.
Each cited experiences during this time that made a deep impression. Within five years on the job, Moore twice found himself in confrontations with armed men and shot them both, killing one. Shortly after the second shooting, he volunteered to work on an anti-drug program with young children. "It was the other side," he said. "It really broadened my sense of what this job is about. I realized that being a police officer is about much more than enforcement."
McDonnell got a first-hand look at the devastation the city was enduring in an anti-gang unit in the LAPD's West Bureau. "The scale of the problem and the desperation of the people involved stayed with me," McDonnell said. "It was the beginning of me understanding that the gang problem in this city is not black and white. I saw kids who were brought up in homes that they didn't get to choose and who were growing up in neighborhoods where gangs were the default family."
Beck worked a similar assignment in South L.A., the epicenter of the city's violence and misery. Like McDonnell, Beck said he was struck in retrospect by how one-dimensional and ineffective the crime-fighting approach was at the time compared to the city's efforts today to link police work with gang intervention and prevention programs. "We were an occupying army," he said. "I saw it not working, but I didn't have the maturity yet as a person or professionally to recognize it and to understand why."
With the exams that officers must pass to qualify for promotions and the internal politics of the LAPD, no one climbs the ranks by chance. These three are no exception, as each has deliberately sought bigger assignments and more responsibility over the years.
Early on, Moore set himself on an ambitious career trajectory, landing an array of positions in the field and in the LAPD's administration offices, which are typically expected of officers who aspire to rise far in the department. He spoke with pride about a stint in the early 1990s in a criminal analysis unit, where he helped develop an early version of the computerized crime mapping systems that are used heavily today.
"It was something I needed to do to round out the look of Michel Moore," he said, adding that the experience offered a stark lesson on the challenge of pushing change on a department entrenched in its ways of doing things.
Many people described Moore as a disciplined leader who demands as much of his staff as he does of himself. He often send e-mails late at night about issues he wants addressed and keeps close tabs on the work he assigns to be done. "Mike Moore is probably the hardest-working deputy chief I ever worked under," said retired Cmdr. Valentino Paniccia, who was Moore's second in command in the Valley. "If anyone is accusing him of being a micromanager" -- and some do -- "it's because they weren't doing their job. Those who aren't doing well get micromanaged. . . . He lets you know he's watching over your shoulder."
Like Moore, McDonnell took on a range of assignments. More than the others, however, he gravitated toward high-level management assignments that landed him in the LAPD's hallways of power instead of at command posts in the department's field stations.
In the mid-1990s, he spent more than two years as a lieutenant running the department's efforts to implement a more community-friendly philosophy. It was an idea that had long received lip service but was never aggressively pursued; the experience, McDonnell said, drove home for him "the power that can come from real collaboration between police and the community."
Several of McDonnell's supporters portrayed him as a serious but kind leader who demonstrates little obvious ego. "I've worked for a lot of different people and I sought Jim McDonnell out as a boss because of his reputation," Capt. Scott Sargent said. "He pays attention to his people. The job is not about him at all."
Throughout his career, Beck has spent most of his time in the field. While not denying an ambition to seek out new and bigger assignments over the years, Beck tended to shun many of the administrative positions that officers typically take to earn promotions. He also has shown less interest in pursuing academics, having only recently earned a bachelor's degree from Cal State Long Beach. By contrast, Moore and McDonnell each have master's degrees.
Beck's evolution as a cop under Bratton is particularly striking. The son of an LAPD deputy chief, he grew up immersed in the old-guard, paramilitary approach to policing.
Soon after Bratton took over the department in 2002, however, he selected Beck to be the captain in charge of the Rampart Division, which had badly tarnished the department with revelations of corruption and abuses.
Beck was hailed by a panel that examined Rampart for his ability to develop -- and get his officers to adopt -- a more inclusive, progressive approach that emphasized a partnership with the residents.
"He puts you at ease as a leader," said Officer Mike Wang, who worked with Beck at Rampart and elsewhere. Beck's calm, hands-off approach can sometimes come across as aloofness to those not familiar with him, Wang acknowledged. "But that's not what's going on. He has an incredible intuition about his cops and what they need. . . . He can relate to you because he's been there."
Inevitably, a shake-up of the department's leadership will follow after the mayor makes his choice as the new chief surrounds himself with people he trusts. It remains to be seen what happens to the two finalists who are not selected.
Top civil rights attorney promises increased enforcement of discrimination laws
U.S. Assistant Atty. Gen. Thomas Perez ushers in an era of 'transformation and restoration' with pledges to fight housing bias, hate crimes and predatory lending, among other things.
By Teresa Watanabe
October 31, 2009
The nation's top civil rights attorney vowed Friday to step up enforcement of laws against housing bias, hate crimes, racially targeted predatory lending and other discriminatory acts in what he called a new era of "transformation and restoration."
Thomas Perez, U.S. assistant attorney general for civil rights, also said during a keynote address to an Asian Pacific American civil rights conference in Los Angeles that he would "depoliticize decision-making" and work to restore trust between career attorneys and political appointees in the Justice Department.
Perez said attempts to replace career civil rights lawyers with conservative Republicans, as documented in a U.S. inspector general's report this year, was the "most problematic" of the Bush administration's policies on civil rights. Between 2003 and 2007, he said, 70% of lawyers left the department's civil rights division.
But that era, Perez said, is over.
"The civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice is open for business," he said to applause and cheers from hundreds of participants at the conference, sponsored by four leading Asian Pacific American organizations.
Perez lauded the Bush administration's work on ensuring voter access to bilingual ballots, combating religious discrimination and cracking down on human trafficking.
But he said that too few cases were filed to challenge alleged discrimination in other areas, such as voting practices, voter registration procedures and what he called "toxic predatory lending" targeted at minority consumers.
Such lending, he said, helped exacerbate the foreclosure crisis as the federal government failed to use fair housing and equal credit laws to attack the practices.
In contrast, Perez said, the Obama administration planned to use all legal tools available to enforce all civil rights laws.
"There are no buffet lines. . . . We are not here to pick and choose which laws to enforce," he said. "We're going to enforce all of the laws."
Perez said the Obama administration's renewed emphasis on civil rights enforcement was reflected in a 20% proposed budget increase that would allow his office to add more than 100 new staff members. At present, more than 300 lawyers in the division enforce laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion and national origin. Lawyers also oversee voting-rights cases, which are likely to increase after next year's census and the resulting redistricting.
Perez, a 48-year-old Dominican American sworn into office two weeks ago, worked for 12 years as a civil rights attorney under both Republican and Democratic administrations. He most recently served as Maryland's labor secretary.
His address highlighted a two-day conference featuring workshops on labor, immigration, education, health and other issues. It was organized by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Los Angeles, the Asian American Institute of Chicago, the Asian American Justice Center of Washington, D.C., and the Asian Law Caucus of San Francisco.
Chicago terrorism case inverts a common fear
This time, it's a U.S. citizen accused of traveling outside the country to plot a terrorist attack.
By Sebastian Rotella
October 31, 2009
Reporting from Washington
It is a worrisome first: an American accused of going to Europe to plot a terrorist attack there.
Recent arrests in Chicago underscore a growing concern among Western officials about the threat posed by U.S. militants who take advantage of their passports to travel easily around the world on violent missions.
"We never thought it could be persons from the U.S. coming here to commit attacks," said Hans Jorgen Bonnichsen, a former chief of Denmark's police security intelligence service. "This shows a new tendency."
The Chicago case centers on David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani American businessman who allegedly traveled to Denmark to plot an attack on a newspaper targeted by Islamic extremists because it published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
Headley, 49, becomes the latest of several U.S. citizens recently accused of direct contact with top Al Qaeda figures who enlisted them for terrorist plots. But he also stands out because he is older and more sophisticated than suspects in previous cases and, according to investigators, used his consulting business as a cover for clandestine militant activity overseas.
Headley also allegedly conspired with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani militant group accused of carrying out last year's bloody, highly organized attacks in Mumbai. Those contacts intensify fears that the group shares Al Qaeda's determination to strike the West.
With officials saying additional arrests are possible, the case also reiterates a surprising reality: One of the world's most likely targets of terrorism today is placid Denmark, population 5.5 million.
"Until yesterday, the threat was mainly from homegrown groups," Bonnichsen said in a telephone interview. "This case shows a very strong connection to Al Qaeda groups in Pakistan. That is really a challenge and we can only handle it by depending on good international cooperation."
Denmark has confronted a barrage of propaganda and threats since 2005, when the Jyllands-Posten newspaper published caricatures of Muhammad. Police in 2007 arrested two South Asians for manufacturing bombs in a Copenhagen apartment, and in February 2008 broke up an alleged homegrown plot in which three suspects planned to assassinate the newspaper's cartoonist. Later, an Al Qaeda car bombing at the Danish Embassy in Islamabad killed six people.
Danish security forces keep close watch on their surprisingly fierce extremist underworld. But they had not expected the likes of Headley, who admits having visited the newspaper's offices in January on the pretext of wanting to advertise his Chicago immigration consulting company, according to an FBI complaint.
In January and during a second trip in July, Headley filmed video of potential targets during alleged scouting missions in Copenhagen and Aarhus for what officials say may have been a commando-style raid like the Mumbai attack.
Despite stepped-up security, Headley was able to talk his way into the newspaper's offices, according to the complaint.
"This is what Danish intelligence was most scared of," said Morten Skjoldager, author of "The Threat Within," which is about terrorism in Denmark. "The extremist environment in Denmark is so small that if you get in touch with someone in that world, it will be noticed by the intelligence services. But so far it seems he had no connections with Denmark."
Headley seems an especially effective operative because he does not fit the profile of the typical Islamic militant. He is older than suspects in other cases, such as Najibullah Zazi, the 24-year-old Afghan American charged last month with preparing bomb attacks in New York.
And in contrast to Bryant Neal Vinas, the Long Island high school dropout who pleaded guilty this year to conspiring with Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, Headley's purported work as an immigration consultant gave him an air of respectability. Nonetheless, the FBI complaint alleges that his company did little business and may have been just a front.
U.S. authorities have long feared that terrorists forged in Europe's large militant communities could try to take advantage of limited visa requirements to enter the United States and carry out an attack. Headley's travels reverse that concern.
Radicalization among Muslims remains rare in the U.S. compared even to small countries like Denmark. Western officials assume that Americans would be used by Islamic militants for attacks here. In Europe, police generally devote less scrutiny to U.S. visitors than to others, even to some of their own citizens of immigrant descent returning from South Asia or North Africa.
"It's a bit surprising," said Louis Caprioli, an executive at the GEOS security firm in Paris and former French anti-terrorism chief. "It's the first time we talk about an American leaving for Europe for a terrorist act. Maybe the United States is becoming a factory for terrorists."
Headley was born Daood Gilani in the United States and attended military school in Pakistan, his family's homeland. He changed his name in 2006 to "raise less suspicion" when traveling, the complaint says.
He also told FBI agents that he underwent training with Lashkar and had worked with the group for at least three years, authorities say.
Created by Pakistani security forces as an arm in the struggle for Indian-occupied Kashmir, Lashkar funnels recruits to Al Qaeda and participates in plots against the West.
Lashkar's English propaganda appeals to aspiring holy warriors in North America and Britain. Foreigners find it easier to reach Lashkar training camps because they are tolerated or supported by elements of Pakistan's security forces, according to Western anti-terrorism officials.
In another case, two U.S. men convicted on terrorism charges in Atlanta this year were part of a network of Britons, Canadians and Americans who were radicalized by Lashkar and traveled to its camps.
Headley developed the Denmark plot with a Lashkar operative in Pakistan and with Ilyas Kashmiri, a notorious militant chief who runs a training camp in Waziristan and has become a close Al Qaeda ally, the complaint says, citing surveillance and Headley's confession.
FBI agents arrested Headley on Oct. 3 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago as he began a trip to Pakistan to meet with Kashmiri, the complaint says.
Militant groups remain eager for U.S. recruits because of their operational value, investigators say. Headley's handlers made the most of him as an undercover operative, at one point communicating with him about switching from Denmark to a plot in India, the complaint says.
During the exchanges, Headley allegedly used business terms as code, substituting company names for terrorist groups.
"The main thing is the business must go on," he wrote on Sept. 20, according to the complaint.
"I don't care [if] I am working for Microsoft or I am working [for] GE or Philips."
The true meaning, according to the complaint: Headley did not care which militant group he worked for as long as he could help carry out attacks.
Polanski's victim is not judge and jury
Even though she wants the case to be dropped, the justice system is there to protect society as well.
October 31, 2009
One of the chief arguments for Roman Polanski in his otherwise not-very-defensible case is that his victim -- the girl he allegedly drugged, raped and sodomized when she was 13 in 1977 -- doesn't seem to be holding a grudge.
Samantha Geimer has said repeatedly that she doesn't want Polanski prosecuted. She went so far as to file a statement in the state 2nd District Court of Appeal last week asking that the case be dismissed, arguing that as a crime victim she has a right to "finality" under the California Constitution. In a 2003 Op-Ed article for The Times, she wrote that although her experience with Polanski was "scary" and "creepy" and "not consensual by any means," pursuing the case would only make matters worse.
To Polanski's defenders, this is more proof that the case should be dropped. Why, they want to know, is Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley persecuting this great artist, this Holocaust survivor, this harmless man? His crimes, if indeed they were crimes, were perpetrated decades ago, they say. And even his alleged victim wants the case dropped.
But we're not persuaded. We empathize with Geimer, who has received about 500 media calls in recent weeks, but the case against Polanski was not brought to satisfy her desire for justice or her need for closure. It was brought by the state of California on behalf of the people of California. Even if Geimer no longer holds a grudge against Polanski, that doesn't mean he doesn't pose a continuing danger to others. Even if she wants the phone to stop ringing, that doesn't mean he gets to walk away from the charges. Crimes are committed not just against individuals but against the community.
What's more, Polanski is a fugitive. He fled when he became worried that the judge would renege on a plea deal. That offense -- hopping a flight to Europe rather than appearing in court -- was not perpetrated against Geimer.
In recent years, the U.S. judicial system has recognized the rights of crime victims; few would disagree that victims have the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and sensitivity, and to be consulted on certain aspects of a prosecution. But in the end, it is prosecutors -- not victims -- who make such discretionary decisions as when to proceed, plea bargain or drop a case. Indeed, they often decide to proceed even in cases in which the victim -- a battered wife, for example, or an abused child -- decides he or she would rather not press charges or testify.
Geimer's desire to have her life back is understandable. But people accused of serious crimes must be apprehended and tried and, if convicted, must face their sentences. That's an old and sturdy principle, and we'd like to stick to it.
Call Polanski's crime what it was: rape
A Times story on the victim's testimony uses the kind of language that absolves the self-exiled film director of his real crime.
By Wendy Murphy
12:21 PM PDT, October 30, 2009
The Times' Oct. 25 article, " How a girl's stark words got lost in the Polanski spectacle ," is yet another piece about Roman Polanski's crimes that purports to be tough on the film director but instead adds to the public perception that what he did was no big deal.
First, the story refers to the crime as an "alleged" rape. Polanski pleaded guilty to "unlawful sex with a minor," which is the crime of child rape in California. There is no need to use the word "alleged" anymore.
The story also, incredibly, includes references to the victim's utterly irrelevant two past sexual incidents before her encounter with Polanski. At a minimum, The Times should have noted that, according to a report by Polanski's probation officer, one time was with a teenage boyfriend and another was at age 8 with a "kid down the street." The piece creates a false impression that the victim was sexually mature with adult men.
These things may be salacious to the reader, but they are completely irrelevant as a matter of law -- thus irrelevant to the story -- not to mention constitutionally protected private information that diminishes the seriousness of the crime. A child cannot consent to adult sex, which makes all information about the victim's past particularly irrelevant. But even if she had been over the age of consent, past sexual activity has no bearing on whether a victim consented on the night in question. Thus, to write such things about a child is indefensible. To do so in a story that purports to reveal the awful truth about Polanski manipulates the public sentiment.
And what could possibly justify writing that a member of the grand jury who heard the victim's testimony thought she was "fast"? What if one of them thought Polanski was "ugly," a "pedophile" or "gay-looking"? Would The Times have printed that?
The story also leaves out important information about Polanski's predatory actions. For example, the pieces of Quaalude he gave the child were from a 300-milligram tablet -- which makes even a small piece super-potent, especially to a young girl. Medical literature says kids shouldn't have the drug at all; the effects are even worse after a few glasses of champagne, which Polanski gave to his victim.
The story says Polanski's probation report "scrubbed" the allegations against him but doesn't mention that what Polanski told investigators flatly contradicts what the victim and her mother told the grand jury. Polanski told his probation officer that he didn't know it was wrong to photograph a child topless; this even though, according to testimony by the victim's mother, Polanski didn't reveal the fact that he photographed her daughter topless until after the rape had taken place. He said the girl took off her blouse on her own volition, but the victim testified that Polanski directed her to remove her clothes. Polanski also said he didn't offer her any Quaaludes; again, the victim's testimony contradicts this claim. She said Polanski told her to take the drug.
Despite the probation officer's odd support for Polanski (his report noted, stunningly, that Polanski was "solicitous" in avoiding impregnating the child), it was recommended that he not be around children under age 18. The Times' article left this out too.
Most important, the piece uses extensive erotic language and barely any language of violence. The word "rape," which is what Polanski did to the child, appears only four times (twice because The Times was quoting someone else). "Rape" is the only word that clearly conveys criminal activity, and a child can never have "sex" with an adult.
Wendy Murphy, a former prosecutor specializing in child abuse and sex crimes cases, is the author of "Justice for Some."
From the Daily News
Bratton leaves his stamp on LAPD
By Rick Orlov, Staff Writer
Updated: 10/30/2009 06:53:29 PM PDT
In every police chief job he'd taken, Bill Bratton was known for putting his personal stamp on the agency, changing the color and style of police cars and redesigning the officers' uniform patch.
But that wasn't the case when he joined the Los Angeles Police Department seven years ago.
"I respected the traditions of the LAPD, and the one thing I respected was they do not have a patch," Bratton said in an interview earlier this week.
"It's the ego of the LAPD that the badge says it all."
With the outer trappings of the LAPD in place, Bratton set out to put his personal stamp on the department itself. He implemented programs that helped push crime to historic lows and reached out to officers to boost morale.
And as he prepares to leave office today for a private-sector job, he finds himself credited with returning the luster to a department tarnished by misdeeds, corruption and mistrust.
"This is my city," Bratton said, as he stood on the deck of his 10th floor office in the new Police Administration Building and reflected on a law-enforcement career that began nearly 40 years earlier on the segregated streets of Boston.
When he was hired to head the LAPD in 2002, race relations were not among the issues raised by those interviewing him for the job, Bratton said.
"I was the one who raised it," Bratton said. "Their concern was getting the department out of the funk it was in. It was a department in disgrace, a department in free fall and how they could get out from under the consent decree."
Crime rates were rising and there was suspicion of the LAPD after anti-gang officers in the Rampart Division scandal were accused of beating and framing suspects.
There was also skepticism about hiring a top administrator from outside the department after the lackluster experience with Willie L. William, the former Philadelphia chief who headed the LAPD from 1992-97.
When Bratton was hired, one of his first orders was to take responsibility for implementing a federal consent, transferring the team overseeing the plan into his office.
He also brought in his own command team and instituted the now widely heralded COMPSTAT, a computer program that tracks crime and deploys officers to deal with problems as they developed.
"It's what Los Angeles offered to me," Bratton says. "I finally had an opportunity and enough time to take full advantage of the opportunity to not only lower crime, but be able to prove once again that cops count, police matter."
Bratton also spent months meeting with leaders of Los Angeles' African American, Latino and Asian communities, working to cement relationships shattered by racial strife.
As a result, he said it is has proved his theory that police officers have an impact on race relations as well as crime.
"In so many communities, police are seen as a cause of racial tension," Bratton said. "If we get it right, we can have a positive impact."
To observers, Bratton got it right.
"He really worked hard to establish relations in the minority communities," said civil rights attorney Connie Rice, who has both sued and worked with the LAPD for two decades.
"And, he did the same thing inside the LAPD. Morale was horrible and he came in and said there would be no more of the `gotcha' type of management.
"He told everyone that he wanted a department that was free of racial bias, enforced the law without brutality and that he wanted the department to be a catalyst for racial healing."
But while Bratton's tenure has generally met with praise, he was dogged by a critics on a few points - most notably the frequency of his out-of-town travel and a tendency to shoot off his mouth.
In 2003, his first full year on the job, Bratton spent 99 days out of town, about half for personal reasons and half deemed work-related.
That meant he was out of town during the February 2008 shooting of a SWAT officer in Winnetka and the Metrolink crash in Chatsworth last September.
But Bratton made no apologies for his travel, saying he kept in constant contact with his command staff and worked hard when he was in town. He also said much of his travel benefitted the city, such as lobbying trips to Washington D.C. and establishing relationships with other police agencies.
He also was known for making colorful comments that were greeted with a mixture of outrage and amusement, such as saying Lindsay Lohan has "gone gay" (based at the time only on tabloid gossip) and using terms like "knuckleheads" to refer to rioters during the Lakers parade.
But even those who at times criticized the department's operations under Bratton were reluctant to take shots at him as he was leaving.
"I wish him godspeed," said Councilman Bernard Parks, who was fired as police chief after one term and frequently criticized Bratton's management and questioned the accuracy of his crime statistics.
While the Police Protective League at times disagreed with department policies, union president Paul Weber said Bratton established his credibility by reaching out to cops.
"We had a good professional relationship," Weber said. "We learned from each other. He was able to overcome the suspicion we had of working with other agencies. We used to think, `We're the LAPD. We know how to do it better.'
Bratton also wrote a monthly column in the union's newspaper, speaking directly to officers about their concerns and any issues involving the department.
Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California and a frequent critic of LAPD's policies, said Bratton has changed the police department.
"Anyone who has been here for any length of time realizes how different the department is," Ripston said.
"There were a lot of suspicions of him when he came in from New York and he really worked hard to overcome that. I think whoever is the next chief is going to have to learn from him and show the same independence he has and understand how the city works today."
Bratton said he also believed that some crises, particularly those involving officer misconduct such as the May Day melee of 2007, helped him ultimately improve the department's image by dealing with the incidents properly.
Part of the reason he feels comfortable in leaving the department now is the partial lifting of the consent decree and how it has improved the department's reputation.
"Now that we're out from it, we can see it wasn't such a bad thing," Bratton said. "Other law enforcement knows how tough it was, but it is not such a bad thing having best practices in place and everyone talking about how good we are."
From the Washington Times
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Blacks in U.S. drawn to Islam despite radicals
Jesse Washington ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sekou Jackson is used to the questions: Why does he need to leave a work meeting to pray? Don't black Muslims convert to Islam in jail? Why would you even want to be Muslim?
"It's kind of a double whammy to be African-American and Muslim," said Mr. Jackson, who studies the Navy at the National Academy of Science in Washington. "You're going to be judged."
Mr. Jackson's struggle may have gotten harder when the FBI on Wednesday raided a Detroit-area warehouse used by a Muslim group. The FBI said the group's leader preached hate against the government, trafficked in stolen goods and belonged to a radical group that wants to establish a Muslim state in America. The imam of the group's mosque, a black American named Luqman Ameen Abdullah, was killed in a shootout with agents. The FBI says he resisted arrest and fired a gun.
On Friday, the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit, where Mr. Abdullah served as prayer leader, dismissed as "utterly preposterous" the FBI's allegations that Mr. Abdullah was part of a radical Islamic group. Mr. Abdullah was a "recognized and respected member of numerous mainstream Muslim organizations and leadership bodies," the mosque said.
"The slanderous allegations of his being a national leader of a radical Islamic sect is utterly preposterous. ... These allegations are contrary to what we as a community stand for," the mosque said.
Although the FBI was careful to say those arrested in Detroit were not mainstream Muslims, it has accused other black Muslims of similar crimes, most recently in May, when four men were charged with plotting to blow up New York synagogues and shoot down a military plane.
Yet the Muslim faith continues to convert many average black Americans, who say they are attracted by Islam's emphasis on equality, discipline and family.
"The unique history African-Americans have faced, we're primed for accepting Islam," said Mr. Jackson, 31, who grew up in a secular home and converted to Islam when he was about 18.
"When someone comes to you with a message that everyone is equal, that the only difference is the deeds that they do, of course people who have been oppressed will embrace that message," he said. "It's a message of fairness."
It was a message of black pride in the face of dehumanizing prejudice that launched Islam in America in the 1930s.
Created by a mysterious man named Wallace Fard, the "Lost-Found Nation of Islam" strayed far from the teachings of the prophet Muhammad, but its mixture of self-reliance, black supremacy and white demonization resonated with many blacks. Some 30 years later, Malcolm X began the black movement toward traditional Islam when he left the Nation of Islam, went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and proclaimed that all whites were not evil.
In 1975, the Nation split into two factions: a larger group that embraced orthodox Sunni practices, and another, led by Louis Farrakhan, that maintained the Nation's separatist ideology.
Today, it is difficult to determine the number of Muslims in America. A 2007 Pew survey estimated 2.35 million, of whom 35 percent were black. Lawrence Mamiya, a Vassar College professor of religion and African studies and an expert on American Islam, said Muslim organizations count about 6 million members, a third of them black.
Most black Muslims are orthodox Sunnis who worship in about 300 mosques across the country, Mr. Mamiya said. The second-largest group follows Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, which has about 100 mosques in America, abroad and in U.S. prisons, Mr. Mamiya said.
He said the third-largest group is the Ummah, founded by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, the black activist formerly known as H. Rap Brown. The group has about 40 or 50 mosques. The organization targeted in the raid near Detroit was part of the Ummah, the FBI said.
"The vast majority of African-American Muslims are using the religion to strengthen their spirituality," said Mr. Mamiya, who has interviewed many black Muslim leaders and congregants. He said the number of black Muslims is growing, but not as fast as before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Few white Americans convert to Islam "because the tendency is to view Islam as foreign," he said. "For African-Americans, it's part of their African heritage. There's a long tradition [in Africa]. ... It moves them away from the Christianity they saw as a slave religion, as the religion that legitimized their slavery."
Friday, October 30, 2009
Imam's death reignites Gitmo worries
By Andrea Billups and Audrey Hudson
LANSING, Mich. | The deadly shootout near Detroit involving the FBI and the leader of a radical Sunni Muslim group has fueled already simmering fears of some residents in Standish, Mich., where a proposal to move Guantanamo Bay detainees to an empty maximum security prison is dividing the community.
"Hopefully, this is a wake-up call," said Dave Hertzberg, supervisor of Lincoln Township, where federal officials have toured the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility as a possible site to hold more than 200 Muslim jihad suspects.
"It's very scary, and I just hope it opens some eyes up here," he told The Washington Times on Thursday of the FBI raid Wednesday just two hours away.
Also Thursday, federal officials issued a warning that the shooting death of Ummah leader Luqman Ameen Abdullah may engender retaliatory violence against police there and in the Washington area, though law enforcement officials played the warning down as a routine measure.
"Abdullah's death and associated arrests may foster resentment, violent rhetoric and threats from Ummah adherents," said the raw intelligence document from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center (WRTAC), which was obtained by The Times. "Because of the group's anti-law enforcement sentiments, law enforcement officers should be particularly mindful of this change in the threat environment and the possibility for retaliation."
FBI agents attempted to arrest Abdullah and members of his group on weapons charges when Abdullah pulled a gun, refused orders to drop the weapon and then fatally shot an FBI canine. Abdullah was then killed by FBI fire, according to court documents.
Fears of putting hundreds of Muslim terror suspects in Standish are exacerbated by the area's being a few hours' drive from Dearborn, the site of Wednesday's shooting and of America's heaviest concentrations of Muslims and Arabs.
Lincoln Township passed a resolution opposing the transfer of prisoners from the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Michigan.
The Standish prison is set to close for good Saturday. President Obama has called for closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison by his first anniversary in office and, although some have said that target likely will be missed, others are concerned that state and national officials have been far too quiet on future plans.
Mr. Hertzberg said he has been told that a decision will be coming within two weeks, but that his calls to the Department of Defense and elected officials have not given him specifics on a future deal. He and others in Standish say they fear that a lot is happening behind closed doors because few in power are talking.
"All my senators say it's out of state hands. It's on a federal level now," he said. "I can't get any information."
U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, the Democrat whose congressional district includes the Standish area, wrote in a letter to the editor published in the local Arenac County Independent newspaper that "to date there has been no offer made, plan presented or process started" and that local officials should wait to examine any proposal before making up their minds on it.
The Coalition to Stop Gitmo North has been sponsoring information sessions across the state and holding meetings and protests, including one Friday in Standish with Debra Burlingame, the founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America. Her brother, Charles Frank "Chic" Burlingame III, was a pilot of the American Airlines plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
Kelly Kimball, a former Arenac County commissioner who has led opposition efforts in Standish, said she was not surprised to learn of a terrorist group organizing near Detroit.
"This is exactly what we have been told by the experts - that we'll see an increase in [cell] activity. ... It's just a matter of time," she said. "This is why we don't want them here. It's just too close to the largest Muslim population in the United States. Why would we bring those prisoners here with access to people who would be sympathetic to them and who would hide their terrorist activity? It makes no sense at all."
Peter Leitner, a national terrorism specialist who heads the Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center, said the FBI shooting near Detroit should serve as a "wake-up call" against moving Guantanamo detainees.
"These FBI raids boldly underscore the grave dangers posed to the citizens of Michigan if the administration decides to transfer the world's most dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the state prison in Standish," Mr. Leitner said in a statement.
As for the raid's implications in the D.C. area, the WRTAC obtained by The Times said "Ummah sympathizers or other similar groups may be operating in the National Capital Region. Officers should be alert for possible retaliatory actions as a result of the FBI Detroit raid."
Supervisory Special Agent Katherine W. Schweit of the FBI's Washington office declined to comment or even confirm the contents of the document.
But speaking in general terms, she said, "any time an incident occurs elsewhere in the country information is provided to all state, federal and local offices to provide them with the status, and urging them to be cautious regarding similar incidents."
Assistant Chief Patrick Burke of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington said he has no information to indicate that Ummah is operating within the region.
He also described the warning as routine, but expressed concern that a document meant solely for law enforcement was released to the media.
OCTOBER 31, 2009
From the Wall Street Journal
Secret Mission Rescues Yemen's Jews
By MIRIAM JORDAN
MONSEY, N.Y. -- In his new suburban American home, Shaker Yakub, a Yemeni Jew, folded a large scarf in half, wrapped it around his head and tucked in his spiraling side curls. "This is how I passed for a Muslim," said the 59-year-old father of seven, improvising a turban that hid his black skullcap.
The ploy enabled Mr. Yakub and half a dozen members of his family to slip undetected out of their native town of Raida, Yemen, and travel to the capital 50 miles to the south. There, they met U.S. State Department officials conducting a clandestine operation to bring some of Yemen's last remaining Jews to America to escape rising anti-Semitic violence in his country.
In all, about 60 Yemeni Jews have resettled in the U.S. since July; officials say another 100 could still come. There were an estimated 350 in Yemen before the operation began. Some of the remainder may go to Israel and some will stay behind, most in a government enclave.
Moshe Nahari, who was murdered in December 2008 (left), and Said Ben Yisrael, whose house was firebombed (second from left), danced at a wedding celebration in Raida, Yemen in 2007.
The secret evacuation of the Yemeni Jews -- considered by historians to be one of the oldest of the Jewish diaspora communities -- is a sign of America's growing concern about this Arabian Peninsula land of 23 million.
The operation followed a year of mounting harassment, and was plotted with Jewish relief groups while Washington was signaling alarm about Yemen. In July, Gen. David Petraeus was dispatched to Yemen to encourage President Ali Abdullah Saleh to be more aggressive against al-Qaeda terrorists in the country. Last month, President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to President Saleh that Yemen's security is vital to the region and the U.S.
Yemen was overshadowed in recent years by bigger trouble spots such as Afghanistan. But it has re-emerged on Washington's radar as a potential source of regional instability and a haven for terrorists.
The impoverished nation is struggling with a Shiite revolt in the north, a secessionist movement in the south, and growing militancy among al-Qaeda sympathizers, raising concern about the government's ability to control its territory. Analysts believe al-Qaeda operatives are making alliances with local tribes that could enable it to establish a stronghold in Yemen, as it did in Afghanistan prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The State Department took something of a risk in removing the Yemenis to the U.S., as it might be criticized for favoritism at a time when refugees elsewhere are clamoring for haven. The U.S. calculated the operation would serve both a humanitarian and a geopolitical purpose. In addition to rescuing a group threatened because of its religion, Washington was seeking to prevent an international embarrassment for an embattled Arab ally.
President Saleh has been trying to protect the Jews, but his inability to quell the rebellion in the country's north made it less likely he could do so, prompting the U.S. to step in. The alternative -- risking broader attacks on the Jews -- could well have undermined the Obama administration's efforts to rally support for President Saleh in the U.S. and abroad.
"If we had not done anything, we feared there would be bloodshed," says Gregg Rickman, former State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
Mr. Yakub says the operation saved his family from intimidation that had made life in Yemen unbearable. Violence toward the country's small remaining Jewish community began to intensify last year, when one of its most prominent members was gunned down outside his house. But the mission also hastens the demise of one of the oldest remaining Jewish communities in the Arab world.
Jews are believed to have reached what is now Yemen more than 2,500 years ago as traders for King Solomon. They survived -- and at times thrived -- over centuries of change, including the spread of Islam across the Arabian Peninsula.
"They were one of the oldest exiled groups out of Israel," says Hayim Tawil, a Yeshiva University professor who is an expert on Yemeni Jewry. "This is the end of the Jewish Diaspora of Yemen. That's it."
Centuries of near total isolation make Yemeni Jews a living link with the ancient world.
Many can recite passages of the Torah by heart and read Hebrew, but can't read their native tongue of Arabic. They live in stone houses, often without running water or electricity. One Yemeni woman showed up at the airport expecting to board her flight with a live chicken.
Through the centuries, the Jews earned a living as merchants, craftsmen and silversmiths known for designing djanbias , traditional daggers that only Muslims are allowed to carry. Jewish musical compositions became part of Yemeni culture, played at Muslim weddings and festivals.
"Yemeni Jews have always been a part of Yemeni society and have lived side by side in peace with their Muslim brothers and sisters," said a spokeswoman for the Embassy of Yemen in Washington.
In 1947, on the eve of the birth of the state of Israel, protests in the port city of Aden resulted in the death of dozens of Jews and the destruction of their homes and shops. In 1949 and 1950 about 49,000 people -- the majority of Yemen's Jewish community -- were airlifted to Israel in "Operation Magic Carpet."
About 2,000 Jews stayed in Yemen. Some trickled out until 1962, when civil war erupted. After that, they were stuck there. "For three decades, there were no telephone calls, no letters, no traveling overseas. The fact there were Jews in Yemen was barely known outside Israel," says Prof. Tawil.
After alienating the West by backing Iraq during the first Gulf War, Yemen sought a rapprochement with Washington. In 1991, it declared freedom of travel for Jews. An effort led by Prof. Tawil and brokered by the U.S. government culminated in the departure of about 1,200 Jews, mainly to Israel, in the early 1990s. Arthur Hughes, American ambassador to Yemen at the time, recalls that those who chose to remain insisted: "This is where we have been for centuries, we are okay; we're not going anywhere."
The few hundred Jews who stayed behind were concentrated in two enclaves: Saada, a remote area in Yemen's northern highlands, and Raida to the south.
In 2004, unrest erupted in Saada. The government says at least 50,000 people have been displaced by fighting between its troops and the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group.
Animosity against Jews intensified. Notes nailed to the homes of Jews accused them of working for Israel and corrupting Muslim morals. "Jews were specifically targeted by Houthi rebels," says a spokeswoman for the Yemeni embassy in Washington.
In January 2007, Houthi leaders threatened Jewish families in Saada. "We warn you to leave the area immediately... [W]e give you a period of 10 days, or you will regret it," read a letter signed by a Houthi representative cited in a Reuters article.
Virtually the entire Jewish community in the area, about 60 people, fled to the capital. Since then, they have been receiving food stipends and cash assistance from the government while living in state-owned apartments in a guarded enclave, says the Yemeni embassy in Washington.
President Saleh, a Shiite, has been eager to demonstrate goodwill toward the Jews. On the Passover holiday, he invited TV crews to videotape families in the government complex as they feasted on lamb he had ordered.
Raida became the last redoubt of Yemeni Jews, who continued to lead a simple life there alongside Muslims.
Ancient stone homes dot the town. Electricity is erratic; oil lamps are common. Water arrives via truck. Most homes lack a TV or a refrigerator. The cell phone is the only common modern device. Some families receive financial aid from Hasidic Jewish groups in Brooklyn and London, which has enabled them to buy cars.
Typically, the Jewish men are blacksmiths, shoe repairmen or carpenters. They sometimes barter, trading milk and cow dung for grass to feed their livestock. In public, the men stand out for their long side curls, customarily worn by observant Jewish men. Jewish women, who often marry by 16, rarely leave home. When they do, like Muslim women, only their eyes are exposed.
For fun, children play with pebbles and chase family chickens around the house. At Jewish religious schools, they sit at wooden tables to study Torah and Hebrew. They aren't taught subjects like science, or to read and write in Arabic, Yemen's official language.
"I showed them a multiplication table and I don't think they had ever seen one," says Stefan Kirschner, a New York University graduate student who visited Raida in August 2008 and says he sat in a few classes.
In September 2008, militants detonated a car bomb outside the U.S. Embassy in Yemen's capital of Sanaa, killing 16 people. The attack raised fresh concern about Muslim extremism and the government's stability.
Then, on Dec. 11, a lone gunman shot dead Moshe Nahari, a father of nine and well-known figure in Raida's Jewish community. Abdul-Aziz al-Abdi, a retired Air Force pilot, pumped several bullets into Mr. Nahari after the Hebrew teacher dismissed his demands that he convert to Islam. In June, the shooter was sentenced to death.
Israel's offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip later in December sparked protests in Yemen. Jewish men and children in Raida were heckled, beaten and pelted with rocks. A grenade was hurled at the house of Said Ben Yisrael, who led one of three makeshift synagogues in Raida, and landed in the courtyard of his two-story home.
From the safety of his new home in suburban New York, Mr. Yakub recounted his last months in Yemen. Rocks shattered the windows of his house and car. Except for emergencies and provisions, Jews began to avoid leaving home. When they did, Mr. Yakub and other Jews took to disguising themselves as Muslims.
"This was no way to live," he said, seated at the head of a long table surrounded by his wife and children.
Salem Suleiman, who also arrived recently in New York, bears scars from rocks that hit his head. "They throw stones at us. They curse us. They want to kill us," he said. "I didn't leave my house for two months."
New York had a community of about 2,000 Yemeni Jews. Yair Yaish, who heads the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America, says he was barraged with "desperate calls from the community here saying we have to do something to get our families out."
The U.S. Ambassador to Yemen urged Yemeni ministers to facilitate the departure. After initial reluctance -- the government preferred to give the Jews safe haven in the capital city -- Yemen agreed to issue exit permits and passports.
"It was the embassy's view, and the Department concurred, that because of their vulnerability, we should consider them for resettlement," says a spokeswoman for the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
Jewish Federations of North America raised $750,000 to help the effort. Orthodox groups also pledged to pitch in. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society was tasked with their resettlement.
Word reached Jews in Raida that there was an American plan afoot to rescue them.
The first applicants signed up at the U.S. Embassy in January. To avoid attracting attention, families convoyed to Sanaa in taxis at dawn.
Later they traveled to a hotel for interviews with U.S. officials. To establish a case for refugee status, they had to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution. For many of the women, it was the first time speaking with anyone outside the home.
As news spread of their imminent departure, many families reported trouble selling property. Potential buyers offered low prices or refused to bid, thinking they could get the property free after it was deserted.
"All they have is this little house worth $15,000," says Yochi Sabari, a Jew from Raida who lives in New York and has relatives in Yemen. "They can't leave until they sell it."
About three weeks before their travel date, the U.S. embassy contacted the first four families cleared for travel. On July 7, their 17 members traveled to the airport in Sanaa and boarded a Frankfurt-bound flight.
When the Yemenis landed in New York the next day, Jewish organization officials there to greet them spotted several women cloaked in black robes, only their eyes exposed.
"The Jewish women were the ones in burqas," says Gideon Aronoff, president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. He says he was "initially shocked."
Several families missed the two flights offered to them by the U.S. and, therefore, forfeited their chance to move here. Family members say they are having trouble disposing of assets. An undisclosed number of people have reached Israel, including the family of Mr. Ben Yisrael, whose home was the target of a grenade, and the family of Mr. Nahari, who was slain in December 2008. In the U.S., the Yemeni refugees are being settled in Monsey, a suburban enclave of ultraorthodox Jews, lined with strip malls that sell black coats and wide-rimmed hats worn by Hasidic men.
The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society's network established a Monsey office, where case managers arrange housing and disburse food stamps, cash and other refugee benefits to the Yemeni arrivals. Many of the adults, caseworkers say, aren't yet capable of budgeting, following a schedule or sitting still in a structured classroom to learn English.
On a recent morning, Mr. Suleiman, a 36-year-old father of three, retrieved an alarm clock that he received with his furnished apartment.
"I still don't know how to use this," he said. "The children have been playing with it."
From the Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Napolitano Opens New National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center
Release Date: October 30, 2009
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Arlington, Va. — Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today opened the new National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) — a 24-hour, DHS-led coordinated watch and warning center that will improve national efforts to address threats and incidents affecting the nation's critical information technology and cyber infrastructure.
"Securing America's cyber infrastructure requires a coordinated and flexible system to detect threats and communicate protective measures to our federal, state, local, and private sector partners and the public," said Secretary Napolitano. "Consolidating our cyber and communications operations centers within the NCCIC will enhance our ability to effectively mitigate risks and respond to threats."
The new, state-of-the-art facility reflects the shared priority of President Obama and Secretary Napolitano to bolster information sharing and incident response in order to protect and secure the nation's cyber networks and infrastructure.
The NCCIC provides an integrated incident response facility to mitigate risks that could disrupt or degrade critical information technology functions and services, while allowing for flexibility in handling traditional voice and more modern data networks.
The new unified operations center combines two of DHS' operational organizations: the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), which leads a public-private partnership to protect and defend the nation's cyber infrastructure; and the National Coordinating Center for Telecommunications (NCC), the operational arm of the National Communications System.
In addition, the NCCIC will integrate the efforts of the National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC), which coordinates operations among the six largest federal cyber centers; the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and private sector partners.
The NCCIC was created at the recommendation of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, the Government Accountability Office and a joint industry-government working group, which together emphasized the need for collocation, integration, and interoperability among existing cyber and communications incident response mechanisms.
Today's ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the culmination of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month—highlighting the shared responsibility among all individuals, the private sector and state, local and federal partners to counter the threat of cyber attacks.