of the Day
- November 17, 2009
some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood
activist across the country
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
Suspect in Mid-City slaying had been deported to Mexico, had earlier domestic violence case
November 16, 2009 | 3:17 pm
A man accused of fatally stabbing a woman at her Mid-City apartment last week, hours after she filed a domestic violence allegation against him, was twice returned to Mexico from the U.S. and had a prior felony conviction for domestic violence involving another woman.
Daniel Carlon, 23, allegedly stabbed Flor Medrano, 30, in her apartment in the 1300 block of Cochran Avenue as LAPD officers from the Wilshire Division were outside in their car filling out a crime report.
According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security records, Carlon had been sent back to Mexico twice – once in January 2007 based on an immigration judge's order and again in June of this year following his arrest by federal immigration officials.
Records also indicate Carlon had a prior felony conviction for domestic violence in 2005. Details of that case were not immediately available.
Medrano filed a domestic violence report against Carlon hours before she was killed Wednesday. Police believe Carlon scaled the roof of the apartment building and entered through a rear window. When officers heard screaming, they rushed upstairs and saw Carlon through a window, stabbing Medrano. Police fatally shot Carlon.
Jasmin Gomez, 20, who lives in the building, said there was a memorial with flowers, candles and a photo outside the building for Medrano – a single-mother with a 3-year-old daughter.
L.A. City Council panels reject ban on medical marijuana sales
November 16, 2009 | 3:17 pm
Rejecting the advice of the city attorney, two Los Angeles City Council committees voted today to scrap a proposed provision that would have banned the sale of medical marijuana.
The controversial measure, first proposed a year and a half ago, delayed deliberations as council members debated the wisdom of ignoring the opinion of the city's top prosecutor. But about four hours into a raucous hearing, council members made it clear they were ready to move on.
"When can we finally stop the merry-go-round?" said Councilman Dennis Zine, who kicked off the City Council's consideration of the issue in 2005 when concerns about dispensaries first surfaced. He proposed an alternative provision that would allow dispensaries to accept cash for marijuana as long as they comply with state law.
William Carter, the chief deputy city attorney, repeatedly argued that state law and state court decisions make it clear that collectives can cultivate medical marijuana but not sell it. "We're stuck with the current law," he said.
But Zine urged the council members to adopt an interpretation of the law that would not upend how dispensaries operate in Los Angeles and most of the state. "I'm saying let's push that to the edge," he said.
After the members of the planning committee and Public Safety Committee voted, David Berger, a special assistant to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, said it is up to the council to decide whether to accept the office's legal advice. "Our duty is to advise them on what the law allows for and not to go on a whim," he said. "They decided to go a different way."
Councilman Ed Reyes, who has overseen most of the council's consideration of the issue, expressed exasperation with the city attorney's office. "I think they are very, very narrow in that they're taking their prosecutorial perspective," he said.
The long-delayed measure could be taken up by the full council as soon as Wednesday. "We need something on the books now. There is no reason why we should delay," Reyes said.
Four years ago, when the City Council first began to look into regulating dispensaries, there were four. A year later, there were 98. In 2007, when the city adopted a moratorium, 186 dispensaries were allowed to remain in business. Now, the city attorney's office estimates there could be as many as a thousand spread throughout the city, and heavily concentrated in some neighborhoods.
At the hearing, scores of dispensary operators and marijuana users argued that the proposed ban would force them to close. "It simply won't work," said Don Duncan, a Los Angeles resident who is the California director of Americans for Safe Access.
A vote for a sales ban would have taken Los Angeles into uncharted legal territory. Duncan's organization and the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients threatened to sue the city if the council adopted the provision, arguing that the city attorney's opinion was flawed.
About 400 people crowded into the main council chamber for the hearing. Most of the speakers were supporters of medical marijuana who became increasingly rowdy. They repeatedly interrupted the handful of neighborhood activists who spoke, urging the adoption of an ordinance that would reduce the number of dispensaries and clamp down on operations that create nuisances.
"Do the right thing. Protect your community. You're going to get sued anyway," said James O'Sullivan with the Miracle Mile Residential Assn.
L.A. County prosecutors to open 24-hour dog-fighting tip line and reward program
November 16, 2009 | 11:55 am
Los Angeles County prosecutors are teaming up with the Humane Society of the United States to announce what they say is a first-of-its-kind dog-fighting tip line and reward program.
The 24-hour tip line, staffed by people who speak English and Spanish, will allow county residents to anonymously report dog-fighting incidents and collect up to $5,000 in reward money for information leading to an arrest or conviction.
The new tip-line number will be announced Tuesday at the office of L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley at the downtown Criminal Courts building.
Those who are convicted of illegal dog fighting, a felony under state law, can face a maximum prison sentence of three years, prosecutors said. Watching a fight or helping to prepare for such contests is a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to six months in county jail.
Dog fighting is widespread in Los Angeles County, according to authorities. In the United States, the American Humane Society estimates that 40,000 people follow organized dog-fighting circuits and more than 250,000 dogs are made to suffer in dog-fighting pits each year.
More Americans feel economic pinch in their stomachs
November 16, 2009 | 10:23 am
More Americans last year lacked the ability to put adequate food on their tables than in any year since the federal government began monitoring food insecurity, according to a government report today.
The report, posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website, blamed the current recession for the increasing number of people who are having difficulty meeting their dietary needs.
“The recent economic downturn has brought a sharp increase in the number of Americans who report having difficulty meeting their food needs,” said the report. “In fact, in 2008, the number and percentage of U.S. households classified as ‘food insecure' reached the highest level recorded since federal monitoring of food insecurity began in 1995.”
Food insecurity is generally defined as “inadequate or unsure access to enough food for active, healthy living.” It can manifest itself as not having enough money to buy food through the month or having to eat less or ingesting poorer-quality food to make ends meet.
According to the report, the number of food-insecure U.S. households rose from 13 million in 2007 to 17.1 million last year. That is an increase from 11.1% of all households to 14.6% in a year.
The number of food-insecure households with children and without was evenly split at about 2 million. However, the increase for households with children was larger, from 15.8% in 2007 to 21% in 2008. The corresponding increase for households without children was from 8.7% to 11.3%.
The report notes that the increase in insecurity in the current recession was worse than the 2001 recession, which was milder.
Obama pledges to reverse hunger
November 16, 2009 | 12:23 pm
Hours after a government report showed that more Americans were feeling the pinch of hunger, President Obama pledged today to reverse that trend.
In a prepared statement released by the White House, Obama said his administration would work to create jobs and will work with Congress on a child nutrition bill.
“My administration is committed to reversing the trend of rising hunger,” he said.
MEXICO UNDER SIEGE
Fixing Mexico police becomes a priority
Reversing police corruption that has tainted whole departments, shattered faith in law enforcement and compromised one of society's most basic institutions is proving difficult, but not impossible.
by Ken Ellingwood
November 17, 2009
Reporting from San Luis Potosi, Mexico
The lie-detector team brought in by Mexico's top cop was supposed to help clean up the country's long-troubled police. There was just one problem: Most of its members themselves didn't pass, and a supervisor was rigging results to make sure others did.
When public safety chief Genaro Garcia Luna found out, he canned the team, all 50 to 60 members.
"He fired everybody," a senior U.S. law enforcement official said.
But the episode shows how difficult it will be for Mexico to reverse a legacy of police corruption that has tainted whole departments, shattered people's faith in law enforcement and compromised one of society's most basic institutions.
President Felipe Calderon's 3-year-old drug offensive has laid bare the extent to which crime syndicates have infiltrated police agencies at virtually every level. By blurring the line between crime fighters and gangsters, the rampant graft stands as one of the biggest impediments to the Calderon campaign.
Amid the raging drug war, Mexican officials are trying to fix the police through a hurried nationwide effort that includes better screening and training for candidates on a scale never tried here before.
At the heart of the overhaul is a "new police model" that stresses technical sophistication and trustworthiness and that treats police work as a professional career, not a fallback job.
In steps that are groundbreaking for Mexico, cadets and veteran cops are being forced to bare their credit card and bank accounts, submit to polygraph tests and even reveal their family members to screeners to prove they have no shady connections.
Across Mexico, hundreds of state and municipal officers have been purged from their departments and scores more arrested on charges of colluding with drug gangs.
But Mexico has a habit of trading in one corrupt police agency for another, and it will be a long, uphill struggle to create a law enforcement system that can confront crime and gain the trust of ordinary Mexicans. Until then, crooked cops undermine efforts to strengthen the rule of law and defeat drug cartels.
"If you don't have a safe environment to conduct investigations, then it's going to be extremely difficult to capture the narcos," said the U.S. law enforcement official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. "If you have state police that are corrupt and constantly feeding your movements, investigative movements, to the bad guys, you're not going to get anywhere."
Some people fear that the soaring drug violence and mistrust toward police could spark the formation of death squads or vigilante groups. Already there have been suspicions, though no proof, that dozens of killings have been committed by people taking the law into their own hands. More than 13,800 people have been slain since Calderon declared war on the drug cartels, according to unofficial news media tallies.
Although Mexican federal police are in charge of the crackdown against the cartels, it is at the state and municipal levels where law enforcement is most vulnerable, officials and analysts say. Drug gangs exploit hometown ties, dangle bribes and threaten the lives of officers and their relatives to turn police into a kind of fifth column.
Poorly paid state and municipal officers are often on the payroll of drug smugglers, passing tips, providing muscle or looking the other way when illegal drugs are shipped through their turf.
Criminal infiltration of local departments has worsened as the Mexican political system becomes less centralized and as narcotics traffickers delve into offshoot enterprises, such as kidnapping, theft and extortion, that under Mexican law fall within the jurisdiction of state authorities.
At times, local police have faced off in tense showdowns against Mexican federal police and soldiers. The mistrust often prompts federal authorities to keep their state and municipal counterparts in the dark, aggravating interagency frictions.
"There is a disorganized police fighting against organized crime," said Guillermo Zepeda, a police expert at the Center of Research for Development in Mexico City.
In the western state of Michoacan, 10 municipal officers were arrested in the slayings of 12 federal agents there in July. In the Gulf of Mexico port city of Veracruz, authorities investigating the June disappearance of customs administrator Francisco Serrano detained nearly 50 municipal officers. The then-chief of municipal police for the seaport and three traffic officers were later charged with his kidnapping. Serrano is still missing.
The profound flaws of Mexico's police, who are frequently ill trained, poorly equipped and unhappy in their work, are the most visible emblems of how the drug offensive is straining the nation's broader system of law and order.
An opaque and creaky court system groans under the weight of thousands of new drug war cases, and a number of prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges have been slain. Meanwhile, prison officials scramble to make room for the surge of detainees, many of them violent.
Calderon's administration has laid out a strategy to expand and revamp the federal police and to force states, cities and towns to modernize and clean up their forces through such tools as polygraphs and drug tests. Standing in the way are many years of graft, turf jealousies, budget constraints and a drug underworld that has greeted every government move with greater viciousness.
Garcia Luna, the public safety chief, has seized the moment to hire thousands of federal cadets, who under the strict new standards must hold at least a university degree. Despite the stiff requirements, the federal force has grown to 32,264 officers, from about 25,000 a year ago.
At a sleek federal campus here in the north-central state of San Luis Potosi, Mexican officials are rushing to turn 9,000 college graduates into federal investigators. The school boasts state-of-the-art lecture halls, computer rooms, workout facilities, a driver-training track and shooting range.
The U.S. government supports the push to expand and professionalize Mexico's federal forces, lending dozens of police instructors as part of a $1.4-billion aid package for Mexico known as the Merida Initiative.
Federal cadets, dressed in white polo shirts and smart bluejeans, study criminal procedure, interview techniques, criminology and intelligence. The school has graduated 2,234 investigators since June; more than 1,000 fresh recruits began the six-week course last month.
An even more daunting challenge waits in states and cities, which are home to the vast majority of police in Mexico -- more than 370,000 officers. In the last two years, the federal government has relied on budget incentives to prod local departments to vet officer candidates and boost salaries, now often as low as $90 a week.
Garcia Luna has gone so far as to call for eliminating the country's 2,022 municipal agencies, widely seen as the weakest link in Mexican law enforcement, and folding them into police departments of the 31 states and Mexico City, which is formally a federal district.
The proposal is controversial, probably requiring a change in the Mexican Constitution and facing opposition from municipal officials from across the political spectrum who are reluctant to yield parts of their fiefdoms.
Some analysts warn that such a plan could make it easier for criminal groups to bribe police.
"Concentrating power at the state level runs the risk of creating a more hierarchical, 'one-stop-shopping' system of high-level corruption," said David Shirk, a University of San Diego professor and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.
States and municipalities have moved inconsistently to clean up their forces. In some places, such as the northern city of Chihuahua, police are gradually adopting U.S.-style law enforcement standards, such as those promoted by the private Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
Many analysts are encouraged to see local agencies spending more to improve training, equipment and wages, but see scant improvement on corruption.
"You can train police all day long, but if they're still corrupt, then it doesn't really help," said Daniel Sabet, who teaches at Georgetown University and studies Mexican law enforcement. "The corruption and organized-crime infiltration has not changed."
Here in San Luis Potosi state, whose police operation is praised by the U.S. as among a handful in Mexico that are sound, officials raised minimum pay to about $700 a month and now offer bonuses of nearly two months' pay to officers who perform well and pass twice-yearly vetting.
Cesareo Carvajal, public safety director until the state government changed hands in September, said he fired about 150 of 3,000 officers during his two-year term.
The agency also bought radio equipment, new weaponry and police vehicles, and outfitted officers with redesigned uniforms to create an updated image.
At a state-run police academy where San Luis Potosi's next generation of police is being molded, the rhythmic thump-thump of boots on pavement echoed on a recent morning as officers-in-training practiced marching.
Cadets here say a new, trustworthy breed of Mexican police is possible -- but that it will take time to build.
As part of a stricter selection process, recruit Hiram Viñas was hooked to a lie detector and asked about any past scrapes with the law. Screeners peeked into his bank account and rummaged in his family's background.
Viñas, 24, wearing a blue windbreaker and buzz cut, said the rigorous scrutiny could help win over Mexican society.
"They are applying tests and evaluations now that had never been done in our country," he said. "I think over time, people will learn to trust the police again."
Illinois prison could host military trials of detainees
Thomson Correctional Center is a top option to house Guantanamo transfers. The Obama administration says the Defense Department could hold proceedings against terrorism suspects at the rural site.
by Christi Parsons and Julian Barnes
8:54 PM PST, November 16, 2009
Reporting from Washington
In addition to housing foreign detainees, an Illinois state prison could become a site for military trials of those charged with acts of terrorism, an administration official acknowleged Monday.
As the Obama administration works to identify a detention facility for prisoners transferred from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, federal officials also are considering sites to hold military commission trials for at least some of the suspects.
The moves are part of administration plans to close Guantanamo and begin prosecutions. The Thomson Correctional Center was named last week as a leading option for housing detainees outside of Guantanamo.
Critics of the plan to house detainees at Thomson, in northwest Illinois, say it could mean that prisoners would be shuttled as far as Chicago, 150 miles east, to face trials in federal district court, causing potential security threats.
However, a number of the detainees are likely to face trial not in federal court, but before military tribunals. The official said Monday that the administration is not yet at the stage yet of deciding whether or how to locate tribunals at Thomson, but that tribunals could be held "at or near" detention centers where prisoners are being held.
The idea is part of a delicate series of discussions over Guantanamo. Many of the detainees have been approved for transfer to other countries, and a handful will be moved directly to New York to stand trial.
But some of the more than 200 detainees could move to a Defense Department-run center somewhere in the U.S., possibly the nearly empty Thomson, near the Illinois-Iowa border.
Such centers are likely to be magnets for international attention as legal observers and news organizations arrive to view the trials and the Obama administration's approach to detention questions.
But U.S. Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, a Republican from the northern Chicago suburbs, said he worries that trials of detainees housed at a location such as Thomson would necessitate federal court trials in district courts in Rockford or Chicago, exposing the area to security risks.
"As home to America's tallest building, we should not invite Al Qaeda to make Illinois its No. 1 target," Kirk wrote in a recent letter to President Obama, asking him to take Thomson off the list of possible sites.
Obama administration officials said the location of the detention center would not dictate the site of federal court trials, however.
"Establishing the facility at Thomson would have no impact on where the Justice Department decides to prosecute detainees who will go on trial in federal courts," the administration official said.
The government has wide latitude in choosing where to prosecute such cases, and in the past has preferred New York and Virginia.
But as for military commissions, the Defense Department has discretion for choosing sites. So far, all of the military commission proceedings have been at the Guantanamo Naval Base, at a facility not far from the prison.
There is no requirement to hold the military commission trials in the same location as the detention center, but it would make it easier for military officials.
Wherever the trials are held, the government would have to build a secure courtroom, one allowing outside groups to observe and enabling prosecutors to present classified evidence.
Charles Stimson, a former Pentagon official in the George W. Bush administration, said the Thomson facility might work best if it is used only for foreign detainees and not for regular prisoners.
"The current thinking is it will be one-stop shopping," said Stimson, a legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Stimson said that even if Thomson was approved as a detention site, it would take months to get the prison ready.
"It is not shovel ready. It will be a year or more until it's ready," Stimson said. "Guantanamo will be open next year."
It's no way to fight a war on terror
Prosecuting suspected 9/11 terrorists in civilian court -- as President Obama and Atty Gen. Eric J. Holder Jr. plan to do -- is wrong on several levels.
by Jonah Goldberg
6:16 PM PST, November 16, 2009
I get where President Obama and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. are coming from. They think that if we change our way of life, the terrorists will have won.
And in principle, I agree. If upholding our values makes fighting the war
on terror harder, then it should be harder.
That's why I don't care very much that it will cost more money to try suspected terrorists in the Big Apple than it would in the state-of-the-art facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Similarly, while I think the security concerns stemming from a trial in New York are real, I think we can handle them. And, again, just because something is harder, or even more dangerous, that doesn't necessarily mean we shouldn't do it. That's the whole point behind "millions for defense but not one cent for tribute." Some things just aren't for sale.
Nonetheless, I think the decision to send Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his buddies to a civilian trial is a travesty.
Ultimately, the disagreement is one of first principles. If we are at war, then the rules of war apply. The fact that this is a war unlike others we've fought should not mean that it isn't a war at all.
Don't tell that to Obama. He's made it clear that he doesn't see the threat as an unconventional war but as a conventional law enforcement problem. The attorney general insists that 9/11 is a matter for civilian courts. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says attacks such as 9/11 should be thought of as "man-caused disasters." Her "No. 1" priority after the Ft. Hood shootings was to bring Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to justice -- a fine answer for a law enforcement official but not from someone charged with protecting the homeland. The war on terror itself has morphed into "overseas contingency operations."
Just as telling, Obama insists that the decision to move Mohammed to civilian court was entirely Holder's. This is deceptive nonsense. Even if technically true, the choice to let the attorney general make the decision was the real decision. The commander in chief opted to hand off jurisdiction over enemy combatants to the cops. He can't duck that responsibility by saying it wasn't his call.
But there's a more immediate problem. This won't be a show trial, strictly speaking. But it will be a trial for show.
Prominent defenders of the decision, in and out of the administration, insist that this trial is at least partly to benefit America's image around the world. That's a laudable goal -- and another example of why this is not strictly speaking a mere law enforcement issue. But I'm dubious that will be the result.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) defended the administration on Fox News on Sunday, and echoed suggestions from the White House that even if the accused are acquitted on a technicality, they won't be released. They would go back to the legal purgatory known as "preventive detention." That is the right policy; these are dangerous men, after all. But it is an affront to civilian jurisprudence. Under military law, preventive detention is a well-established norm. Under civilian law, it's an affront.
Throw into the equation that these men weren't read their rights, were interrogated in a manner that is illegal in civilian courts, are being tried with little if any possibility of an impartial jury -- and the fact that Holder all but insists they'll be convicted -- and it all adds up to a farce.
Moreover, the administration has not abolished military tribunals. Holder is sending the Al Qaeda suspects in the attack on the destroyer Cole to one. Hence, enemies who attack us abroad are treated like enemy combatants with fewer rights, while terrorists who managed to kill civilians here at home are treated like American citizens. That is perverse.
If history is a guide, this trial will unavoidably come at a cost in terms of leaked intelligence and propaganda victories for our enemies.
Obama's defenders don't believe it. "Does anyone think," asks Joshua Micah Marshall, a prominent liberal blogger, that the "Nuremberg trials ... advanced [the defendants'] causes?" Obama himself invoked the Nuremberg trials during the presidential campaign. "Part of what made us different was even after these Nazis had performed atrocities," he explained, "we still gave them a day in court, and that taught the entire world about who we are but also the basic principles of rule of law."
Such arguments are revealing on at least two counts. First, the Nuremberg trials were military tribunals -- it was understood that the Nazis were not mere criminals.
Second, they took place after we had won the war against Nazi Germany. We could afford such a spectacle because the Nazi cause was dead.
Meanwhile, the war on terror lives. Just don't tell that to Barack Obama.
From the Daily News
Agency keeps teens out of trouble
Involvement in mural, garden, sports projects helps kids and community, too
by Connie Llanos, Staff Writer
Updated: 11/16/2009 07:58:00 PM PST
Painting murals, planting gardens and organizing soccer leagues are not part of typical intervention programs for at-risk teens.
But for thousands of middle and high schools students in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, it is these community-driven activities, organized by local non-profit Youth Speaks Collective, that helps them stay out of trouble.
"I get to meet new people and stay off the streets," said Laura Ruvira, a 16-year-old sophomore from San Fernando High School.
"These activities make me feel like even though I'm a teenager I have a reason to speak up, not just for myself, but for others who think their voice doesn't count."
Launched in 2005, the mission of the Youth Speaks Collective is to give teens in this region a role in their often under-served communities.
From the outset, the organization has had teens at the steering wheel, making them organize change - not just participate in it.
It was teen members of Youth Speaks who wrote the initial grant for the non-profit - a $10,000 grant that allowed them to create the small park in Pacoima, that they also designed.
"We have always been `for youth, by youths"' said David Kietzman, executive director and co-founder of Youth Speaks.
The successful completion of that project earned Youth Speaks the recognition of community leaders and local politicians.
"They provide youth leadership with a hands-on approach so it actually means something to these kids," said Councilman Richard Alarcon, who represents a large portion of the Northeast Valley.
Since that initial project, Youth Speaks has taken on several other community efforts, including converting a 4-acre plot of city owned land in Pacoima into a flourishing community garden, run and operated completely by local teens and community members.
Also with their soccer program, "Futbolito", Youth Speaks has brought year-round athletics to a region that didn't have access to sports programs.
On a daily basis more than 400 teens from the Northeast Valley are served by some community program organized by Youth Speaks, the organization estimates.
"They are involved in doing projects that will last in the community for a long time," Alarcon added.
"With so much cynicism in this world today... these programs shows kids that being cynical doesn't produce anything - action does."
San Fernando High School social studies teacher Malcolm Foley, said that beyond giving students something to do, the work they get involved with at Youth Speaks also translates to better grades in class.
"Being engaged in their communities gives them confidence in their own ideas," Foley said.
"It also teaches them to be problem solvers and once that passion is awakened it correlates to the classroom because they see their work in a larger framework and it drives them to work harder."
Kietzman, who is only 30 himself, said the visual nature of Youth Speaks projects also helps students feel like they are a part of their communities - something that helps them stay away from gangs and drugs.
"When they see their work - whether it's a mural, garden, or tree-scaping they see that their ideas can be put into action and it makes them feel empowered," Kietzman said.
"It's a sustainable model... We are creating the youth leaders of this."
Student linked to SUV firebombings resentenced to 100 months in federal prison
Daily News Wire Services
Updated: 11/16/2009 01:53:41 PM PST
A former Caltech physics graduate student linked to millions of dollars in firebombing damage to dozens of SUVs in the San Gabriel Valley was resentenced on Monday in Los Angeles to 100 months in federal prison.
With time already served and good behavior, William Cottrell, 29, is expected to be released from prison in a year and a half.
Cottrell was convicted in 2004 in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles of conspiracy to commit arson and multiple counts of arson. He was sentenced the next year to eight years and three months behind bars and ordered to pay $3.5 million in restitution for the alleged eco-terrorism attack.
But in September, a federal appeals court overturned all but the conspiracy count.
U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner on Monday imposed the original sentence on the remaining conviction, the maximum sentence for which is 10 years.
"The acts were really heinous -- especially at a time when this kind of thing was very disturbing to the public," Klausner said.
"There's no question this was done to intimidate people," the judge said. "He was lucky nobody was killed. This could've well been a murder case."
Authorities say Cottrell and two other people -- who remain at large -- burned or vandalized dozens of SUVs in a 2003 environmental protest.
The early-morning firebombing and graffiti spree damaged more than 130 vehicles at West Covina car dealerships and outside a few private residences in the San Gabriel Valley. A parts building at a Hummer dealership was also scorched.
Cottrell, wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles, apologized to the court on Monday for his actions.
"I am sorry -- there was no intention of hurting anyone," he said. "I would just like to go back to physics, if possible. All I really want to do now is go back to physics and do research."
In arguing for time served, Cottrell's defense attorney, W. Michael Mayock, said Cottrell is a brilliant physics student who has the potential to make history in the mathematics field.
"He may be the Einstein of the century for all we know," the lawyer told Klausner. "He is just a towering talent in this particular area."
Klausner agreed that Cottrell possesses unusual skills, citing "the brilliance and talent" of the defendant.
But the judge also pointed out that Cotrell has never taken responsibility for the arson.
"There's no question this is a God-given talent," the judge said.
"Am I sad to see him in prison? You bet," he continued. "But there has to be accountability for what you've done. This is a rampage that went on for several hours -- and you certainly did not play a minor role."
During trial, Mayock attempted to argue that Cottrell suffered from Asperger's syndrome -- a form of autism that affects understanding of social situations. However, Klausner would not allow a defense based upon the claim.
In February, the three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Cottrell's conviction and sentence but revised its ruling in an unpublished opinion two months ago.
In its amended ruling, the appeals court said the exclusion of expert testimony during the trial to show Cottrell suffered from Asperger's was improper.
"Evidence of Asperger's syndrome could have assisted the jury to determine whether Cottrell had the specific intent" required for an arson conviction, the panel's ruling stated.
Mayock on Monday argued again that Cottrell's affliction should be taken into consideration during resentencing.
The illness "makes his time in prison more difficult" than it would be if Cottrell was otherwise healthy, Mayock said.
But Klausner shut down that argument, asserting that the syndrome "does not prevent the defendant from knowing the difference between right and wrong."
From the Washington Times
Islamic militants boosting role in drug trade
by Claude Salhani
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The sea lanes of the South Atlantic have become a favored route for drug traffickers carrying narcotics from Latin America to West and North Africa, where al Qaeda-related groups are increasingly involved in transporting the drugs to Europe, intelligence officials and counternarcotics specialists say.
A Middle Eastern intelligence official said his agency has picked up "very worrisome reports" of rapidly growing cooperation between Islamic militants operating in North and West Africa and drug lords in Latin America. With U.S. attention focused on the Caribbean and Africans lacking the means to police their shores, the vast sea lanes of the South Atlantic are wide open to illegal navigation, the official said.
"The South Atlantic has become a no-man's sea," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity owing to the nature of his work.
A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) confirmed the new route.
"The Colombians have shifted their focus from sending cocaine through the Caribbean, and they saw an opportunity to sell cocaine in Europe, transshipping it through the South Atlantic from Venezuela and then to Africa, through Spain and into Europe," DEA spokesman Michael Sanders told The Washington Times. "That's what we're seeing. It's just a new location. That's the route they're taking, for the most part."
The Washington Times reported in March that Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Lebanese Shi'ite group, is deeply involved in the drug trade. Increasingly, however, Sunni groups linked to al Qaeda are also dealing in narcotics to finance their organizations, specialists say.
"It's a weapon against the infidels in the West," said Chris Brown, a senior research associate at the Potomac Institute outside Washington. "As long as the target of the drug trade is the infidels, they have no problem doing it."
Concerns center on groups such as al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), which operates primarily in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. North African officials say they worry that AQIM is amassing large sums of money from the drug trade to use in financing attacks, with the object of frightening away tourists, undercutting local economies and, ultimately, secular regimes.
Much of the drug trafficking passes through Venezuela, said Jaime Daremblum, the director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute and a former Costa Rican ambassador to the United States.
"Caracas has become the cathedral of narco-traffickers," he said.
Colombian and Peruvian drugs pass through Venezuela en route to Africa and then are transshipped to European markets, anti-drug specialists say. The FARC guerrilla movement, which seeks to destabilize the government of Colombia, is involved and has links to the Islamists in North Africa, they say.
"Most of the drugs that are available in Spain come from Venezuela," Mr. Daremblum said.
Venezuelan Ambassador to Washington Bernardo Alvarez said the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has nothing to do with the trafficking and actively fights against it.
"Do not forget that Venezuela is between the biggest producer of drugs [Colombia] and the biggest consumer of drugs [the U.S.]," Mr. Alvarez said in an e-mail. To accuse Venezuela of responsibility "would be like saying the U.S. government is blessing the trafficking of weapons to Mexico, considering that around 90 percent of the weapons confiscated in Mexico originate in the U.S."
The ambassador added, "Venezuela has adopted a comprehensive anti-drug strategy that includes prevention, drug seizures, arrests and extraditions of criminals, destruction of clandestine airstrips, and the monitoring of possible drug routes.
"Venezuela has cooperative anti-drug agreements with 37 countries, including France, Spain and Portugal. Venezuela's fight against drugs has been recognized and lauded by the Organization of American States and even the International Criminal Police Organization."
Michael Shifter, vice president for policy of the Inter-American Dialogue, a center in Washington that focuses on Latin America, said, "Venezuela is a major transshipment point" for drugs, but he said the problem is complex.
"The drug traffickers are having a field day," he said. "The FARC is clearly involved, but there are a lot more actors."
Intelligence officials and other specialists said some of the deals between Islamist groups and narco-traffickers are negotiated in the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony where corruption is rampant.
In a recent report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said there is "a real risk of Guinea-Bissau becoming Africa's first narco-state."
The ICG, a think tank based in Washington and Brussels that focuses on conflict prevention and amelioration, added that "in the absence of effective state and security structures, the country has become a prime transit point for drug trafficking from Latin America to Europe."
The Middle East intelligence official said the CIA tries to monitor the trafficking but cannot stop it in a country where Islamists and drug dealers buy impunity by paying hefty bribes to officials.
The official suggested that a joint tracking center be set up to coordinate data on air and plane shipments on both sides of the South Atlantic.
"If the South Americans know of a ship or plane coming to Africa, they can inform us, and we will track it from here," the official said.
Mr. Sanders of the DEA said his organization "knows there are extremist groups in West Africa, but at this point we don't know if they're playing a role in narcotics trafficking."
• Sara A. Carter contributed to this story from Washington.
Critics say Obama missed chance in China
by Matthew Mosk
SHANGHAI | Gently wading into one of the most sensitive topics of his eight-day Asian tour, President Obama Monday raised the issue of China's human rights and the value of free expression, in part by citing the United States' own checkered civil rights history.
The muted address to about 500 university students here left Mr. Obama with just two days in Beijing to either deliver a more forceful message or establish a new, markedly softer approach to China's suppression of political dissent.
"We do not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation," Mr. Obama said. "But we also don't believe that the principles that we stand for are unique to our nation. These freedoms of expression, and worship, and access to information and political participation, we believe are universal rights. They should be available to all people, including religious and ethnic minorities, whether they are in the United States, China, or any nation."
The president delivered his remarks in a rare, live-streamed Internet broadcast that was also shown locally on cable television in Shanghai. In 1998, President Clinton, by contrast, conducted a press conference that aired live on national television, and he sat for a 20-minute interview on the national news. He raised specific concerns with China's human rights record in both instances.
Later, Mr. Obama flew to Beijing for a meeting and dinner with President Hu Jintao, after which the two leaders were to hold a joint press briefing. Economics - and U.S. pressure on China over its currency policies - was expected to be a prime topic of the bilateral talks.
Human rights advocates said they were pleased to see Mr. Obama address freedom of the press and respect for ethnic minorities, but the overall reaction from others was disappointment.
"It was a missed opportunity," said Phelim Kine, a spokesman for the group Human Rights Watch. "He failed to address some of the most specific and visceral human rights abuses going on in China."
Mr. Kine said any new strategic relationship with China should allow for candor in discussing matters of conscience. "We didn't see it in his words today," he said.
"We are pleased that he spoke up on human rights during his first public event in China and we urge him to speak more about during the joint press conference in Beijing," added T. Kumar of the Washington office of Amnesty International.
The Shanghai event was perhaps the most anticipated of Mr. Obama's four-country tour through Asia because, unlike so much of his carefully choreographed diplomatic journey, it held the potential for an unscripted moment.
China's harsh treatment of ethnic minorities, of dissidents and government critics, and of religious groups that operate without official sanction, has presented the Obama administration with one of its most vexing challenges with a country vital to U.S. economic and diplomatic interests.
The run-up to the president's arrival in China Sunday evening just served to illustrate how delicate the problem remains. Several weeks ago, the president declined to meet in Washington with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader - an unprecedented snub widely viewed as a step taken to avoid irritating the Chinese in advance of his visit.
The White House repeatedly dodged questions about a protracted disagreement over the ground rules for his public appearances while traveling inside a country that tightly controls the spread of information and access to media.
Most of the students, who were picked from eight Chinese universities, indicated as they filed into the venue that they did not plan to wade into provocative waters.
Two of the eight questions were about Mr. Obama's Nobel Peace Prize win and a third focused on a major concern of the Chinese government - whether the U.S. would sell more weapons to Taiwan. But the president did not, as human rights watchers and China experts had feared, completely shy away from these sensitive topics.
If there was a problem with the Obama administration's approach, experts said, it was in what was left unspoken. David Kramer, a former State Department official who advised President George W. Bush on human rights issues, said he learned that lesson the hard way when China hosted the 2008 Olympics.
Mr. Kramer, now a fellow with the German Marshall Fund, said President Bush accepted the Chinese invitation to attend the games without asking for enough in return. "They very much wanted him at the Olympics. And I don't think we sufficiently tapped into that leverage," Mr. Kramer said.
Sophie Richardson, the advocacy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said she and other human rights advocates had become increasingly concerned that the Obama administration was taking the wrong approach to these issues in China.
"There is probably a lot of pressure, particularly on domestic economic issues, to not irritate the Chinese," she said. "The Chinese government places a lot of analytical importance on first visits. If certain issues aren't brought up on first visits, they will be that much harder to raise in the future."
Bush aide urges weapons ban to slow Mexican drug war
by Jerry Seper
The former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection called Monday for the U.S. to reinstitute the ban on assault weapons and take other measures to rein in the war between Mexico and its drug cartels, saying the violence has the potential to bring down legitimate rule in that country.
Former CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner also called for the United States to more aggressively investigate U.S. gun sellers and tighten security along its side of the border, describing the situation as "critical" to the safety of people in both countries, whether they live near the border or not.
Mexico, for its part, needs to reduce official corruption and organize its forces along the lines the U.S. does, such as a specialized border patrol and a customs agency with a broader mandate than monitoring trade, Mr. Bonner said in an exchange of e-mails.
"Border security is especially important to breaking the power and influence of the Mexican-based trafficking organizations," Mr. Bonner said. "Despite vigorous efforts by both governments, huge volumes of illegal drugs still cross from Mexico.
"In turn, large quantities of weapons and cash generated from illegal drug sales flow south into Mexico, which makes these criminal organizations more powerful and able to corrupt government institutions," he said.
Mr. Bonner, a former federal judge who also headed the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under the Republican administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, said the still-raging battle "will determine who controls the legitimate institutions of government."
"While better border law enforcement and interdiction of drugs, weapons and cash will not alone defeat the drug cartels, these steps, as part of a larger strategy, can and will weaken them and make it easier for the Mexican government to destroy them - just as was done over a decade ago with the destruction of the Medellin and Cali cartels in Colombia," Mr. Bonner said.
"But successful efforts will require closer collaboration between U.S. and Mexican border law enforcement agencies, and this will depend on strengthening law enforcement capacity in the border region, including enhancing the professionalism of enforcement agencies to make them more corruption-resistant," he said.
President Obama has described ongoing efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border as "vital to core U.S. national interests." He has expressed his concern over the increased level of violence and the impact it is having on communities on both sides of the border.
Under the Merida Initiative -- a security agreement including the U.S., Mexico and the countries of Central America to combat drug trafficking, transnational crime and money laundering -- the United States is investing $700 million on law enforcement and judicial capacity to improve border security and reduce the illegal flow of guns and drugs across the border.
The Department of Homeland Security, under the Secure Fence Act, is building the necessary infrastructure to deter and prevent illegal entry on the Southwest border, including pedestrian and vehicle fencing, roads and technology.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said that gaining effective control of the nations borders is a "critical element of national security."
An armed conflict between the Mexican government and the drug cartels in that country, who now control almost all of the illicit narcotics trade in the U.S., has raged since 2006. The U.S. Justice Department has described the Mexican cartels as the greatest organized crime threat to the U.S.
The Mexican government has estimated that 1,000 federal forces, police and prosecutors have been killed since 2006 and that civilian deaths during that same period have topped 15,600.
Mr. Bonner, now in private law practice in Los Angeles, said that better border security will require both countries to align the structures of their border agencies to make them better able to work together.
Citing a recent report by the joint task force of the Pacific Council on International Policy and COMEXI, the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Bonner said Mexicos success depends on how effectively both nations manage their shared border.
• Mexico should strengthen its customs agency by converting it to a multifunctional agency capable of addressing security threats, such as cross-border smuggling of weapons and cash - a move the Mexican government has begun.
• Mexico should move toward restructuring its law enforcement institutions along the border to create a direct counterpart to CBP, which was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to unify border enforcement authorities.
• Mexico should establish a Mexican federal frontier police, dedicated to securing the areas between Mexicos ports of entry - much as the U.S. Border Patrol does for the United States.
"Organizational changes are not enough, however," Mr. Bonner said. "The United States also needs to intensify its efforts to curtail the smuggling of firearms and cash into Mexico."
He said some studies have shown that many of the weapons obtained by Mexican drug traffickers come from the U.S., and much of their funding comes from U.S. drug sales. He called for U.S. authorities to begin more aggressive investigations of U.S. gun sellers and to reinstitute the ban on assault weapons.
The federal assault weapons ban was passed on Sept. 13, 1994, during the Clinton administration and prohibited the sale to civilians of certain semi-automatic firearms, so-called assault weapons. The law expired on Sept. 13, 2004, and an effort by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, to extend it for another 10 years was defeated 80-9.
At least three other efforts to pass new legislation banning the weapons have not been successful. In February, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. said the ban should be reinstated, but Mr. Obama has since said he would not push its reinstatement even though it "made sense."
Mr. Bonner also said the U.S. should expand assistance beyond the Merida Initiative and focus on helping Mexico strengthen its law enforcement capacity at the federal and state levels, reducing its vulnerability to corruption or "bribe or bullet" intimidation by the cartels.
"The border is not just about security," Mr. Bonner said. "We must also make the border more efficient for lawful travel and trade .... This goal is achievable - while actually improving security -- by adding infrastructure and resources, modern detection technologies and intelligent risk-management strategies enabling us to facilitate low-risk trade and travel while more effectively identifying high-risk vehicles, cargo and travelers for additional screening."
The joint Pacific Council on International Policy and COMEXI task force recommended, among other things, that both nations adequately staff ports of entry, saying staffing shortfalls should never contribute to bottlenecks.
It also said that both nations should expand existing ports of entry and build new ones, encourage partnerships between the public and private sectors to help accomplish this, and streamline the border-crossing approval processes.
"It is time to tackle these problems and improve our shared border. These are bold recommendations to be sure, but they are achievable," he said. "And they will have profoundly positive benefits for both the United States and Mexico."
Obama's town hall in China
THE WHITE HOUSE
The following is a transcript of President Barack Obama's remarks at a town hall with future Chinese leaders conducted at the Museum of Science and Technology in Shanghai, China. The text was provided by the White House's Office of the Press Secretary:
1:18 P.M. CST
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. It is a great honor for me to be here in Shanghai, and to have this opportunity to speak with all of you. I'd like to thank Fudan University's President Yang for his hospitality and his gracious welcome. I'd also like to thank our outstanding Ambassador, Jon Huntsman, who exemplifies the deep ties and respect between our nations. I don't know what he said, but I hope it was good. (Laughter.)
What I'd like to do is to make some opening comments, and then what I'm really looking forward to doing is taking questions, not only from students who are in the audience, but also we've received questions online, which will be asked by some of the students who are here in the audience, as well as by Ambassador Huntsman. And I am very sorry that my Chinese is not as good as your English, but I am looking forward to this chance to have a dialogue.
This is my first time traveling to China, and I'm excited to see this majestic country. Here, in Shanghai, we see the growth that has caught the attention of the world -- the soaring skyscrapers, the bustling streets and entrepreneurial activity. And just as I'm impressed by these signs of China's journey to the 21st century, I'm eager to see those ancient places that speak to us from China's distant past. Tomorrow and the next day I hope to have a chance when I'm in Beijing to see the majesty of the Forbidden City and the wonder of the Great Wall. Truly, this is a nation that encompasses both a rich history and a belief in the promise of the future.
The same can be said of the relationship between our two countries. Shanghai, of course, is a city that has great meaning in the history of the relationship between the United States and China. It was here, 37 years ago, that the Shanghai Communique opened the door to a new chapter of engagement between our governments and among our people. However, America's ties to this city -- and to this country -- stretch back further, to the earliest days of America's independence.
In 1784, our founding father, George Washington, commissioned the Empress of China, a ship that set sail for these shores so that it could pursue trade with the Qing Dynasty. Washington wanted to see the ship carry the flag around the globe, and to forge new ties with nations like China. This is a common American impulse -- the desire to reach for new horizons, and to forge new partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
Over the two centuries that have followed, the currents of history have steered the relationship between our countries in many directions. And even in the midst of tumultuous winds, our people had opportunities to forge deep and even dramatic ties. For instance, Americans will never forget the hospitality shown to our pilots who were shot down over your soil during World War II, and cared for by Chinese civilians who risked all that they had by doing so. And Chinese veterans of that war still warmly greet those American veterans who return to the sites where they fought to help liberate China from occupation.
A different kind of connection was made nearly 40 years ago when the frost between our countries began to thaw through the simple game of table tennis. The very unlikely nature of this engagement contributed to its success -- because for all our differences, both our common humanity and our shared curiosity were revealed. As one American player described his visit to China -- "[The]people are just like usThe country is very similar to America, but still very different."
Of course this small opening was followed by the achievement of the Shanghai Communique, and the eventual establishment of formal relations between the United States and China in 1979. And in three decades, just look at how far we have come.
In 1979, trade between the United States and China stood at roughly $5 billion -- today it tops over $400 billion each year. The commerce affects our people's lives in so many ways. America imports from China many of the computer parts we use, the clothes we wear; and we export to China machinery that helps power your industry. This trade could create even more jobs on both sides of the Pacific, while allowing our people to enjoy a better quality of life. And as demand becomes more balanced, it can lead to even broader prosperity.
In 1979, the political cooperation between the United States and China was rooted largely in our shared rivalry with the Soviet Union. Today, we have a positive, constructive and comprehensive relationship that opens the door to partnership on the key global issues of our time -- economic recovery and the development of clean energy; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and the scourge of climate change; the promotion of peace and security in Asia and around the globe. All of these issues will be on the agenda tomorrow when I meet with President Hu.
And in 1979, the connections among our people were limited. Today, we see the curiosity of those ping-pong players manifested in the ties that are being forged across many sectors. The second highest number of foreign students in the United States come from China, and we've seen a 50 percent increase in the study of Chinese among our own students. There are nearly 200 "friendship cities" drawing our communities together. American and Chinese scientists cooperate on new research and discovery. And of course, Yao Ming is just one signal of our shared love of basketball -- I'm only sorry that I won't be able to see a Shanghai Sharks game while I'm visiting.
It is no coincidence that the relationship between our countries has accompanied a period of positive change. China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty -- an accomplishment unparalleled in human history -- while playing a larger role in global events. And the United States has seen our economy grow along with the standard of living enjoyed by our people, while bringing the Cold War to a successful conclusion.
There is a Chinese proverb: "Consider the past, and you shall know the future." Surely, we have known setbacks and challenges over the last 30 years. Our relationship has not been without disagreement and difficulty. But the notion that we must be adversaries is not predestined -- not when we consider the past. Indeed, because of our cooperation, both the United States and China are more prosperous and more secure. We have seen what is possible when we build upon our mutual interests, and engage on the basis of mutual respect.
And yet the success of that engagement depends upon understanding -- on sustaining an open dialogue, and learning about one another and from one another. For just as that American table tennis player pointed out -- we share much in common as human beings, but our countries are different in certain ways.
I believe that each country must chart its own course. China is an ancient nation, with a deeply rooted culture. The United States, by comparison, is a young nation, whose culture is determined by the many different immigrants who have come to our shores, and by the founding documents that guide our democracy.
Those documents put forward a simple vision of human affairs, and they enshrine several core principles -- that all men and women are created equal, and possess certain fundamental rights; that government should reflect the will of the people and respond to their wishes; that commerce should be open, information freely accessible; and that laws, and not simply men, should guarantee the administration of justice.
Of course, the story of our nation is not without its difficult chapters. In many ways -- over many years -- we have struggled to advance the promise of these principles to all of our people, and to forge a more perfect union. We fought a very painful civil war, and freed a portion of our population from slavery. It took time for women to be extended the right to vote, workers to win the right to organize, and for immigrants from different corners of the globe to be fully embraced. Even after they were freed, African Americans persevered through conditions that were separate and not equal, before winning full and equal rights.
None of this was easy. But we made progress because of our belief in those core principles, which have served as our compass through the darkest of storms. That is why Lincoln could stand up in the midst of civil war and declare it a struggle to see whether any nation, conceived in liberty, and "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" could long endure. That is why Dr. Martin Luther King could stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and ask that our nation live out the true meaning of its creed. That's why immigrants from China to Kenya could find a home on our shores; why opportunity is available to all who would work for it; and why someone like me, who less than 50 years ago would have had trouble voting in some parts of America, is now able to serve as its President.
And that is why America will always speak out for these core principles around the world. We do not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation, but we also don't believe that the principles that we stand for are unique to our nation. These freedoms of expression and worship -- of access to information and political participation -- we believe are universal rights. They should be available to all people, including ethnic and religious minorities -- whether they are in the United States, China, or any nation. Indeed, it is that respect for universal rights that guides America's openness to other countries; our respect for different cultures; our commitment to international law; and our faith in the future.
These are all things that you should know about America. I also know that we have much to learn about China. Looking around at this magnificent city -- and looking around this room -- I do believe that our nations hold something important in common, and that is a belief in the future. Neither the United States nor China is content to rest on our achievements. For while China is an ancient nation, you are also clearly looking ahead with confidence, ambition, and a commitment to see that tomorrow's generation can do better than today's.
In addition to your growing economy, we admire China's extraordinary commitment to science and research -- a commitment borne out in everything from the infrastructure you build to the technology you use. China is now the world's largest Internet user -- which is why we were so pleased to include the Internet as a part of today's event. This country now has the world's largest mobile phone network, and it is investing in the new forms of energy that can both sustain growth and combat climate change -- and I'm looking forward to deepening the partnership between the United States and China in this critical area tomorrow. But above all, I see China's future in you -- young people whose talent and dedication and dreams will do so much to help shape the 21st century.
I've said many times that I believe that our world is now fundamentally interconnected. The jobs we do, the prosperity we build, the environment we protect, the security that we seek -- all of these things are shared. And given that interconnection, power in the 21st century is no longer a zero-sum game; one country's success need not come at the expense of another. And that is why the United States insists we do not seek to contain China's rise. On the contrary, we welcome China as a strong and prosperous and successful member of the community of nations -- a China that draws on the rights, strengths, and creativity of individual Chinese like you.
To return to the proverb -- consider the past. We know that more is to be gained when great powers cooperate than when they collide. That is a lesson that human beings have learned time and again, and that is the example of the history between our nations. And I believe strongly that cooperation must go beyond our government. It must be rooted in our people -- in the studies we share, the business that we do, the knowledge that we gain, and even in the sports that we play. And these bridges must be built by young men and women just like you and your counterparts in America.
That's why I'm pleased to announce that the United States will dramatically expand the number of our students who study in China to 100,000. And these exchanges mark a clear commitment to build ties among our people, as surely as you will help determine the destiny of the 21st century. And I'm absolutely confident that America has no better ambassadors to offer than our young people. For they, just like you, are filled with talent and energy and optimism about the history that is yet to be written.
So let this be the next step in the steady pursuit of cooperation that will serve our nations, and the world. And if there's one thing that we can take from today's dialogue, I hope that it is a commitment to continue this dialogue going forward.
So thank you very much. And I look forward now to taking some questions from all of you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
So -- I just want to make sure this works. This is a tradition, by the way, that is very common in the United States at these town hall meetings. And what we're going to do is I will just -- if you are interested in asking a question, you can raise your hands. I will call on you. And then I will alternate between a question from the audience and an Internet question from one of the students who prepared the questions, as well as I think Ambassador Huntsman may have a question that we were able to obtain from the Web site of our embassy.
So let me begin, though, by seeing -- and then what I'll do is I'll call on a boy and then a girl and then -- so we'll go back and forth, so that you know it's fair. All right? So I'll start with this young lady right in the front. Why don't we wait for this microphone so everyone can hear you. And what's your name?
Q: My name is (inaudible) and I am a student from Fudan University. Shanghai and Chicago have been sister cities since 1985, and these two cities have conduct a wide range of economic, political, and cultural exchanges. So what measures will you take to deepen this close relationship between cities of the United States and China? And Shanghai will hold the World Exposition next year. Will you bring your family to visit the Expo? Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, thank you very much for the question. I was just having lunch before I came here with the Mayor of Shanghai, and he told me that he has had an excellent relationship with the city of Chicago -- my home town -- that he's visited there twice. And I think it's wonderful to have these exchanges between cities.
One of the things that I discussed with the Mayor is how both cities can learn from each other on strategies around clean energy, because one of the issues that ties China and America together is how, with an expanding population and a concern for climate change, that we're able to reduce our carbon footprint. And obviously in the United States and many developed countries, per capita, per individual, they are already using much more energy than each individual here in China. But as China grows and expands, it's going to be using more energy as well. So both countries have a great interest in finding new strategies.
We talked about mass transit and the excellent rail lines that are being developed in Shanghai. I think we can learn in Chicago and the United States some of the fine work that's being done on high-speed rail.
In the United States, I think we are learning how to develop buildings that use much less energy, that are much more energy-efficient. And I know that with Shanghai, as I traveled and I saw all the cranes and all the new buildings that are going up, it's very important for us to start incorporating these new technologies so that each building is energy-efficient when it comes to lighting, when it comes to heating. And so it's a terrific opportunity I think for us to learn from each other.
I know this is going to be a major focus of the Shanghai World Expo, is the issue of clean energy, as I learned from the Mayor. And so I would love to attend. I'm not sure yet what my schedule is going to be, but I'm very pleased that we're going to have an excellent U.S. pavilion at the Expo, and I understand that we expect as many as 70 million visitors here. So it's going to be very crowded and it's going to be very exciting.
Chicago has had two world expos in its history, and both of those expos ended up being tremendous boosts for the city. So I'm sure the same thing will happen here in Shanghai.
Thank you. (Applause.)
Why don't we get one of the questions from the Internet? And introduce yourself, in case --
Q: First shall I say it in Chinese, and then the English, okay?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes.
Q: I want to pose a question from the Internet. I want to thank you, Mr. President, for visiting China in your first year in office, and exchange views with us in China. I want to know what are you bringing to China, your visit to China this time, and what will you bring back to the United States? (Applause.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The main purpose of my trip is to deepen my understanding of China and its vision for the future. I have had several meetings now with President Hu. We participated together in the G20 that was dealing with the economic financial crisis. We have had consultations about a wide range of issues. But I think it's very important for the United States to continually deepen its understanding of China, just as it's important for China to continually deepen its understanding of the United States.
In terms of what I'd like to get out of this meeting, or this visit, in addition to having the wonderful opportunity to see the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and to meet with all of you -- these are all highlights -- but in addition to that, the discussions that I intend to have with President Hu speak to the point that Ambassador Huntsman made earlier, which is there are very few global challenges that can be solved unless the United States and China agree.
So let me give you a specific example, and that is the issue we were just discussing of climate change. The United States and China are the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, of carbon that is causing the planet to warm. Now, the United States, as a highly developed country, as I said before, per capita, consumes much more energy and emits much more greenhouse gases for each individual than does China. On the other hand, China is growing at a much faster pace and it has a much larger population. So unless both of our countries are willing to take critical steps in dealing with this issue, we will not be able to resolve it.
There's going to be a Copenhagen conference in December in which world leaders are trying to find a recipe so that we can all make commitments that are differentiated so each country would not have the same obligations -- obviously China, which has much more poverty, should not have to do exactly the same thing as the United States -- but all of us should have these certain obligations in terms of what our plan will be to reduce these greenhouse gases.
So that's an example of what I hope to get out of this meeting -- a meeting of the minds between myself and President Hu about how together the United States and China can show leadership. Because I will tell you, other countries around the world will be waiting for us. They will watch to see what we do. And if they say, ah, you know, the United States and China, they're not serious about this, then they won't be serious either. That is the burden of leadership that both of our countries now carry. And my hope is, is that the more discussion and dialogue that we have, the more we are able to show this leadership to the world on these many critical issues. Okay? (Applause.)
All right, it's a -- I think it must be a boy's turn now. Right? So I'll call on this young man right here.
Q: (As translated.) Mr. President, good afternoon. I'm from Tongji University. I want to cite a saying from Confucius: "It is always good to have a friend coming from afar." In Confucius books, there is a great saying which says that harmony is good, but also we uphold differences. China advocates a harmonious world. We know that the United States develops a culture that features diversity. I want to know, what will your government do to build a diversified world with different cultures? What would you do to respect the different cultures and histories of other countries? And what kinds of cooperation we can conduct in the future?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is an excellent point. The United States, one of our strengths is that we are a very diverse culture. We have people coming from all around the world. And so there's no one definition of what an American looks like. In my own family, I have a father who was from Kenya; I have a mother who was from Kansas, in the Midwest of the United States; my sister is half-Indonesian; she's married to a Chinese person from Canada. So when you see family gatherings in the Obama household, it looks like the United Nations. (Laughter.)
And that is a great strength of the United States, because it means that we learn from different cultures and different foods and different ideas, and that has made us a much more dynamic society.
Now, what is also true is that each country in this interconnected world has its own culture and its own history and its own traditions. And I think it's very important for the United States not to assume that what is good for us is automatically good for somebody else. And we have to have some modesty about our attitudes towards other countries.
I have to say, though, as I said in my opening remarks, that we do believe that there are certain fundamental principles that are common to all people, regardless of culture. So, for example, in the United Nations we are very active in trying to make sure that children all around the world are treated with certain basic rights -- that if children are being exploited, if there's forced labor for children, that despite the fact that that may have taken place in the past in many different countries, including the United States, that all countries of the world now should have developed to the point where we are treating children better than we did in the past. That's a universal value.
I believe, for example, the same thing holds true when it comes to the treatment of women. I had a very interesting discussion with the Mayor of Shanghai during lunch right before I came, and he informed me that in many professions now here in China, there are actually more women enrolled in college than there are men, and that they are doing very well. I think that is an excellent indicator of progress, because it turns out that if you look at development around the world, one of the best indicators of whether or not a country does well is how well it educates its girls and how it treats its women. And countries that are tapping into the talents and the energy of women and giving them educations typically do better economically than countries that don't.
So, now, obviously difficult cultures may have different attitudes about the relationship between men and women, but I think it is the view of the United States that it is important for us to affirm the rights of women all around the world. And if we see certain societies in which women are oppressed, or they are not getting opportunities, or there is violence towards women, we will speak out.
Now, there may be some people who disagree with us, and we can have a dialogue about that. But we think it's important, nevertheless, to be true to our ideals and our values. And we -- and when we do so, though, we will always do so with the humility and understanding that we are not perfect and that we still have much progress to make. If you talk to women in America, they will tell you that there are still men who have a lot of old-fashioned ideas about the role of women in society. And so we don't claim that we have solved all these problems, but we do think that it's important for us to speak out on behalf of these universal ideals and these universal values.
Okay? All right. We're going to take a question from the Internet.
Q: Hello, Mr. President. It's a great honor to be here and meet you in person.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you.
Q: I will be reading a question selected on the Internet to you, and this question is from somebody from Taiwan. In his question, he said: I come from Taiwan. Now I am doing business on the mainland. And due to improved cross-straits relations in recent years, my business in China is doing quite well. So when I heard the news that some people in America would like to propose -- continue selling arms and weapons to Taiwan, I begin to get pretty worried. I worry that this may make our cross-straits relations suffer. So I would like to know if, Mr. President, are you supportive of improved cross-straits relations? And although this question is from a businessman, actually, it's a question of keen concern to all of us young Chinese students, so we'd really like to know your position on this question. Thank you. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. Well, I have been clear in the past that my administration fully supports a one-China policy, as reflected in the three joint communiqus that date back several decades, in terms of our relations with Taiwan as well as our relations with the People's Republic of China. We don't want to change that policy and that approach.
I am very pleased with the reduction of tensions and the improvement in cross-straits relations, and it is my deep desire and hope that we will continue to see great improvement between Taiwan and the rest of -- and the People's Republic in resolving many of these issues.
One of the things that I think that the United States, in terms of its foreign policy and its policy with respect to China, is always seeking is ways that through dialogue and negotiations, problems can be solved. We always think that's the better course. And I think that economic ties and commercial ties that are taking place in this region are helping to lower a lot of the tensions that date back before you were born or even before I was born.
Now, there are some people who still look towards the past when it comes to these issues, as opposed to looking towards the future. I prefer to look towards the future. And as I said, I think the commercial ties that are taking place -- there's something about when people think that they can do business and make money that makes them think very clearly and not worry as much about ideology. And I think that that's starting to happen in this region, and we are very supportive of that process. Okay?
Let's see, it's a girl's turn now, right? Yes, right there. Yes. Hold on, let's get -- whoops, I'm sorry, they took the mic back here. I'll call on you next.
Go ahead, and then I'll go up here later. Go ahead.
Q: Thank you.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'll call on you later. But I'll on her first and then I'll call on you afterwards.
Q: Okay, thank you. Mr. President, I'm a student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. I have a question concerning the Nobel Prize for Peace. In your opinion, what's the main reason that you were honored the Nobel Prize for Peace? And will it give you more responsibility and pressure to -- more pressure and the responsibility to promote world peace? And will it bring you -- will it influence your ideas while dealing with the international affairs? Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. That was an excellent question. I have to say that nobody was more surprised than me about winning the Nobel Prize for Peace. Obviously it's a great honor. I don't believe necessarily that it's an honor I deserve, given the extraordinary history of people who have won the prize. All I can do is to, with great humility, accept the fact that I think the committee was inspired by the American people and the possibilities of changing not only America but also America's approach to the world. And so in some ways I think they gave me the prize but I was more just a symbol of the shift in our approach to world affairs that we are trying to promote.
In terms of the burden that I feel, I am extraordinarily honored to be put in the position of President. And as my wife always reminds me when I complain that I'm working too hard, she says, you volunteered for this job. (Laughter.) And so you -- there's a saying -- I don't know if there's a similar saying in China -- we have a saying: "You made your bed, now you have to sleep in it." And it basically means you have to be careful what you ask for because you might get it.
I think that all of us have obligations for trying to promote peace in the world. It's not always easy to do. There are still a lot of conflicts in the world that are -- date back for centuries. If you look at the Middle East, there are wars and conflict that are rooted in arguments going back a thousand years. In many parts of the world -- let's say, in the continent of Africa -- there are ethnic and tribal conflicts that are very hard to resolve.
And obviously, right now, as President of the United States, part of my job is to serve as Commander-in-Chief, and my first priority is to protect the American people. And because of the attacks on 9/11 and the terrorism that has been taking place around the world where innocent people are being killed, it is my obligation to make sure that we root out these terrorist organizations, and that we cooperate with other countries in terms of dealing with this kind of violence.
Nevertheless, although I don't think that we can ever completely eliminate violence between nations or between peoples, I think that we can definitely reduce the violence between peoples -- through dialogue, through the exchange of ideas, through greater understanding between peoples and between cultures.
And particularly now when just one individual can detonate a bomb that causes so much destruction, it is more important than ever that we pursue these strategies for peace. Technology is a powerful instrument for good, but it has also given the possibility for just a few people to cause enormous damage. And that's why I'm hopeful that in my meetings with President Hu and on an ongoing basis, both the United States and China can work together to try to reduce conflicts that are taking place.
We have to do so, though, also keeping in mind that when we use our military, because we're such big and strong countries, that we have to be self-reflective about what we do; that we have to examine our own motives and our own interests to make sure that we are not simply using our military forces because nobody can stop us. That's a burden that great countries, great powers, have, is to act responsibly in the community of nations. And my hope is, is that the United States and China together can help to create an international norms that reduce conflict around the world. (Applause.)
Okay. All right? Jon -- I'm going to call on my Ambassador because I think he has a question that was generated through the Web site of our embassy. This was selected, though, by I think one of the members of our U.S. press corps so that --
AMBASSADOR HUNTSMAN: That's right. And not surprisingly, "in a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, do you know of the firewall?" And second, "should we be able to use Twitter freely" -- is the question.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, let me say that I have never used Twitter. I noticed that young people -- they're very busy with all these electronics. My thumbs are too clumsy to type in things on the phone. But I am a big believer in technology and I'm a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information. I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves. That generates new ideas. It encourages creativity.
And so I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet -- or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.
Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn't flow so freely because then I wouldn't have to listen to people criticizing me all the time. I think people naturally are -- when they're in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that's irresponsible, or -- but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear. It forces me to examine what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.
And I think the Internet has become an even more powerful tool for that kind of citizen participation. In fact, one of the reasons that I won the presidency was because we were able to mobilize young people like yourself to get involved through the Internet. Initially, nobody thought we could win because we didn't have necessarily the most wealthy supporters; we didn't have the most powerful political brokers. But through the Internet, people became excited about our campaign and they started to organize and meet and set up campaign activities and events and rallies. And it really ended up creating the kind of bottom-up movement that allowed us to do very well.
Now, that's not just true in -- for government and politics. It's also true for business. You think about a company like Google that only 20 years ago was -- less than 20 years ago was the idea of a couple of people not much older than you. It was a science project. And suddenly because of the Internet, they were able to create an industry that has revolutionized commerce all around the world. So if it had not been for the freedom and the openness that the Internet allows, Google wouldn't exist.
So I'm a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access, other information technologies like Twitter. The more open we are, the more we can communicate. And it also helps to draw the world together.
Think about -- when I think about my daughters, Malia and Sasha -- one is 11, one is 8 -- from their room, they can get on the Internet and they can travel to Shanghai. They can go anyplace in the world and they can learn about anything they want to learn about. And that's just an enormous power that they have. And that helps, I think, promote the kind of understanding that we talked about.
Now, as I said before, there's always a downside to technology. It also means that terrorists are able to organize on the Internet in ways that they might not have been able to do before. Extremists can mobilize. And so there's some price that you pay for openness, there's no denying that. But I think that the good outweighs the bad so much that it's better to maintain that openness. And that's part of why I'm so glad that the Internet was part of this forum. Okay?
I'm going to take two more questions. And the next one is from a gentleman, I think. Right here, yes. Here's the microphone.
Q: First, I would like to say that it is a great honor for me to stand here to ask you the questions. I think I am so lucky and just appreciate that your speech is so clear that I really do not need such kind of headset. (Laughter.)
And here comes my question. My name is (inaudible) from Fudan University School of Management. And I would like to ask you the question -- is that now that someone has asked you something about the Nobel Peace Prize, but I will not ask you in the same aspect. I want to ask you in the other aspect that since it is very hard for you to get such kind of an honorable prize, and I wonder and we all wonder that -- how you struggled to get it. And what's your university/college education that brings you to get such kind of prizes? We are very curious about it and we would like to invite you to share with us your campus education experiences so as to go on the road of success.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, let me tell you that I don't know if there's a curriculum or course of study that leads you to win the Nobel Peace Prize. (Laughter.) So I can't guarantee that. But I think the recipe for success is the one that you are already following. Obviously all of you are working very hard, you're studying very hard. You're curious. You're willing to think about new ideas and think for yourself. You know, the people who I meet now that I find most inspiring who are successful I think are people who are not only willing to work very hard but are constantly trying to improve themselves and to think in new ways, and not just accept the conventional wisdom.
Obviously there are many different paths to success, and some of you are going to be going into government service; some of you might want to be teachers or professors; some of you might want to be businesspeople. But I think that whatever field you go into, if you're constantly trying to improve and never satisfied with not having done your best, and constantly asking new questions -- "Are there things that I could be doing differently? Are there new approaches to problems that nobody has thought of before, whether it's in science or technology or in the arts? -- those are usually the people who I think are able to rise about the rest.
The one last piece of advice, though, that I would have that has been useful for me is the people who I admire the most and are most successful, they're not just thinking only about themselves but they're also thinking about something larger than themselves. So they want to make a contribution to society. They want to make a contribution to their country, their nation, their city. They are interested in having an impact beyond their own immediate lives.
I think so many of us, we get caught up with wanting to make money for ourselves and have a nice car and have a nice house and -- all those things are important, but the people who really make their mark on the world is because they have a bigger ambition. They say, how can I help feed hungry people? Or, how can I help to teach children who don't have an education? Or, how can I bring about peaceful resolution of conflicts? Those are the people I think who end up making such a big difference in the world. And I'm sure that young people like you are going to be able to make that kind of difference as long as you keep working the way you've been working.
All right? All right, this is going to be the last question, unfortunately. We've run out of time so quickly. Our last Internet question, because I want to make sure that we got all three of our fine students here.
Q: Mr. President, it's a great honor for the last question. And I'm a college student from Fudan University, and today I'm also the representative of China's Youth (inaudible.) And this question I think is from Beijing: Paid great attention to your Afghanistan policies, and he would like to know whether terrorism is still the greatest security concern for the United States? And how do you assess the military actions in Afghanistan, or whether it will turn into another Iraqi war? Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that's an excellent question. Well, first of all, I do continue to believe that the greatest threat to United States' security are the terrorist networks like al Qaeda. And the reason is, is because even though they are small in number, what they have shown is, is that they have no conscience when it comes to the destruction of innocent civilians. And because of technology today, if an organization like that got a weapon of mass destruction on its hands -- a nuclear or a chemical or a biological weapon -- and they used it in a city, whether it's in Shanghai or New York, just a few individuals could potentially kill tens of thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands. So it really does pose an extraordinary threat.
Now, the reason we originally went into Afghanistan was because al Qaeda was in Afghanistan, being hosted by the Taliban. They have now moved over the border of Afghanistan and they are in Pakistan now, but they continue to have networks with other extremist organizations in that region. And I do believe that it is important for us to stabilize Afghanistan so that the people of Afghanistan can protect themselves, but they can also be a partner in reducing the power of these extremist networks.
Now, obviously it is a very difficult thing -- one of the hardest things about my job is ordering young men and women into the battlefield. I often have to meet with the mothers and fathers of the fallen, those who do not come home. And it is a great weight on me. It gives me a heavy heart.
Fortunately, our Armed Services is -- the young men and women who participate, they believe so strongly in their service to their country that they are willing to go. And I think that it is possible -- working in a broader coalition with our allies in NATO and others that are contributing like Australia -- to help train the Afghans so that they have a functioning government, that they have their own security forces, and then slowly we can begin to pull our troops out because there's no longer that vacuum that existed after the Taliban left.
But it's a difficult task. It's not easy. And ultimately I think in trying to defeat these terrorist extremists, it's important to understand it's not just a military exercise. We also have to think about what motivates young people to become terrorists, why would they become suicide bombers. And although there are obviously a lot of different reasons, including I think the perversion of religion, in thinking that somehow these kinds of violent acts are appropriate, part of what's happened in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan is these young people have no education, they have no opportunities, and so they see no way for them to move forward in life, and that leads them into thinking that this is their only option.
And so part of what we want to do in Afghanistan is to find ways that we can train teachers and create schools and improve agriculture so that people have a greater sense of hope. That won't change the ideas of a Osama bin Laden who are very ideologically fixed on trying to strike at the West, but it will change the pool of young people who they can recruit from. And that is at least as important, if not more important over time, as whatever military actions that we can take. Okay?
All right, I have had a wonderful time. I am so grateful to all of you. First of all, let me say I'm very impressed with all of your English. Clearly you've been studying very hard. And having a chance to meet with all of you I think has given me great hope for the future of U.S.-China relations.
I hope that many of you have the opportunity to come and travel and visit the United States. You will be welcome. I think you will find that the American people feel very warmly towards the people of China. And I am very confident that, with young people like yourselves and the young people that I know in the United States, that our two great countries will continue to prosper and help to bring about a more peaceful and secure world.
So thank you very much everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)
From the Department of Justice
Monday, November 16, 2009
Arizona Man Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Travel with Intent to Engage in Sex with Minors
Richard Hendryx, 79, of Morristown, Ariz., was sentenced today to two years in prison and lifetime supervised release to follow his prison term for travel with intent to engage in sex with minors.
Hendryx was charged on May 6, 2008, with one count of travel with intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor and two counts of distribution of child pornography. The charges were brought after Hendryx arrived at a prearranged meeting spot and paid to go on what he believed to be a tour of Mexico that would offer him an opportunity to have sex with two boys under the age of 11. In reality, the tour was an undercover operation run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Hendryx pleaded guilty to the charge against him on Dec. 29, 2008. As part of his plea agreement, Hendryx admitted to arranging and paying to be taken to Mexico in order to have sex with two boys aged eight and 10 years.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney James Silver of CEOS, with assistance from Senior Litigation Counsel Vincent Q. Kirby and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon K. Sexton of the District of Arizona. ICE conducted the investigation.
New Jersey Man Sentenced on International Sex Tourism and Child Pornography Charges
Wayne Nelson Corliss, 60, of Union City, N.J., was sentenced to 235 months in prison today in Newark, N.J., on three charges of traveling in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and a single count each of producing and possessing child pornography.
Corliss was also sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Joseph A. Greenaway to lifetime supervised release to follow his prison term, and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. He will be required to register as a sex offender.
Corliss was identified in May 2008 after INTERPOL made a global appeal for any information that could identify a then-unknown male. In that appeal, INTERPOL released a photo to media outlets around the world depicting an individual later identified as Corliss. The likeness in the image distributed by INTERPOL had been cropped from photos depicting Corliss sexually abusing young children in Southeast Asia. As reported by INTERPOL at that time, the images, which were distributed on the Internet, captured the abuse of children as young as six-years-old, and were originally discovered by police in Norway. Within 48 hours of INTERPOL's global appeal, special agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field offices in Newark and Washington, D.C., coordinating with INTERPOL, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation & Obscenity Section (CEOS), identified, located and arrested Corliss. He has been in custody since his arrest.
Corliss pleaded guilty on Oct. 28, 2008. In his plea, Corliss admitted he traveled to Thailand each year from 2000 to 2002. In each instance, he admitted, he traveled with the intent to sexually abuse children, paid for unfettered access to children, brought items to facilitate their sexual abuse and actually sexually abused children. Corliss also admitted to sexually abusing children in 2002 in Thailand for the purpose of photographing and videotaping the activity. In addition, Corliss admitted to storing and possessing images of child pornography on his home computers at the time of his arrest in 2008.
Corliss and two other U.S. sex tourists, Burgess Lee Burgess and Mitchell Kent Jackson, allegedly communicated with and were afforded sexual access to children in Thailand by John Wrenshall. Wrenshall was extradited from the United Kingdom and awaits trial in New Jersey on sex tourism and child pornography charges. According to the indictment, Wrenshall had ready access to young Thai boys, some as young as four-years-old, at his Thailand home and provided Corliss, Burgess, Jackson and others with sexual access to those children in exchange for money. Burgess, 45, and Jackson, 32, pleaded guilty on Nov. 6, 2009, in the Southern District of Alabama and were each sentenced to 78 months in prison.
This case was investigated by ICE. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Vartan of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Michael Yoon of CEOS.
INTERPOL and ICE are partners in the Virtual Global Task Force, an international alliance of law enforcement committed to keeping children safe from child predators.
From the FBI
2,100 ATMs Worldwide Hit at Once
It was a highly sophisticated and cleverly orchestrated crime plot. And one unlike any we've ever seen before.
It culminated a year ago this month—on November 8, 2008—when a wave of thieves fanned out across the globe nearly simultaneously. With cloned or stolen debit cards in hand—and the PINs to go with them—they hit more than 2,100 money machines in at least 280 cities on three continents, in such countries as the U.S., Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, Estonia, Russia, and the Ukraine.
When it was all over — incredibly within 12 hours — the thieves walked off with a total of more than $9 million in cash. And that figure would've been more, had the targeted ATMs not been drained of all their money.
The alleged masterminds of this slick scheme—prosecutors charged earlier this month following an extensive FBI investigation assisted by other federal agencies and our partners around the globe—were three 20-something Eastern Europeans and an unnamed person called simply “Hacker 3.”
Working together, the four hackers cooked up “perhaps the most sophisticated and organized computer fraud attack ever conducted,” according to Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates of the Northern District of Georgia.
- It started when a 28-year-old Moldovan man learned of a vulnerability in the computer network of major credit card processing company based in Atlanta. With an eye toward exploiting it, he passed that information to a hacker living in Estonia.
- The Estonian conducted “reconnaissance” on the network vulnerability and shared what he learned with a hacker in Russia.
- With the help of the three other hackers at varying times, the Russian busted into the electronic network, reverse-engineered the PIN codes from the encrypted system, and raised the limits on the amount of money that could be withdrawn from the prepaid payroll debit cards. (These cards, used by many companies, enable employees to withdrawal their salaries from an ATM.)
- In addition to providing computer support, Hacker 3 managed the network of thieves around the world—called “cashers”—who used a total of 44 counterfeit cards to withdrawal the $9 million. The Estonian also managed his own cashing group.
- As the cashers went to work, the Russian took the lead in monitoring the victim company's database to track the illegal withdrawals. With the Estonian, he later deleted or tried to delete files on the computer network to cover their tracks.
- When the ATM thefts were complete, Hacker 3—with the help of the Estonian—gathered and divvied up the proceeds. The cashers got to keep 30 to 50 percent of the money they stole; the rest went to the four hackers.
Fortunately, the company reported the breach immediately, and we quickly got to work. Our ensuing case was made with a great deal of international cooperation and even led to joint investigations overseas. Suspected cashers, for example, have also been identified and arrested in Estonia and Hong Kong.
The case is a testament to both the globalized nature of crime in today's world and the international reach of the FBI, which depends more and more on a network of 61 overseas offices worldwide to protect the U.S. from a range of national security and criminal threats.