From the L.A. Times
After the riots: The day L.A. changed
Historic reforms passed on June 2, 1992, altered the accountability and behavior of the LAPD.
by Raphael J. Sonenshein
May 31, 2012
Twenty years ago in April, widespread rioting revealed the limitations of the Los Angeles political system. But that year also brought something to celebrate: voter passage of historic police reform on June 2, 1992.
The beating of Rodney King on March 3, 1991, changed the way the city felt about the Los Angeles Police Department — and about its controversial chief, Daryl F. Gates. More fundamentally, the beating pointed out serious structural problems in the governance of the department.
The biggest issue was the fact that police chiefs enjoyed Civil Service status. This job protection dated back to 1937, when Los Angeles was in the middle of a corruption crisis that eventually led to the recall of Mayor Frank Shaw. City voters decided then that police chiefs should be given Civil Service protection to insulate them from politics.
But that protection also brought an unintended consequence: A succession of chiefs, starting with William Parker in 1950, used their status as civil servants to thumb their noses at elected officials. As journalist and author Lou Cannon wrote, Parker "wanted a department that answered to no one but its chief. He achieved this goal and in the process became a chief who answered to no one."
That kind of arrogance was fully embraced by Gates, who as a young officer had been Parker's driver. After the King beating, there were calls for Gates to step down, but he ignored them. The Police Commission voted to put him on paid leave, but after just a few days, the City Council voted to reinstate him. Mayor Tom Bradley asked Gates to resign. But the chief refused and the crisis continued.
The turning point was the appointment of the Christopher Commission. At the end of March, just weeks after the beating, Gates named former state Supreme Court Justice John A. Arguelles to head an inquiry into the King beating. On April 1, Bradley named the city's leading private citizen, Warren Christopher, to head an Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department.
On April 4, the two agreed to merge their commissions. Christopher would be chairman and Arguelles vice chairman. Bradley would appoint six more members, and Gates two more.
The commission got right to work, and on July 9, 1991, issued its blunt conclusions. There were, it asserted, "a significant number of officers in the LAPD who repetitively use excessive force," and "the failure to control these officers is a management issue that is at the heart of the problem." These problems demanded fundamental change: "Los Angeles should have a Police Department whose chief is accountable to civilian officials."
The report included shocking evidence of racism among officers, quoting excerpts of communications from police car computers. In the most infamous example, officers referred to a black couple having a domestic dispute as "gorillas in the mist."
The report recommended major structural changes, including eliminating the chief's Civil Service protection and enhancing the independence of the Police Commission from the chief. The Christopher Commission also joined the chorus of those calling on Gates to step down.
The commission's recommendations were brought to the City Council in September. After a contentious meeting, the council members finally voted to put most of the recommendations on the June ballot as Charter Amendment F. But long before the vote, on April 29, 1992, the officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted and the city exploded.
Gates' behavior during the violence — on the first night, he left Parker Center to attend a fundraiser against Charter Amendment F — solidified the public's dissatisfaction with his leadership. A Times poll in May 1992 put his disapproval rating at 81%.
In the June election, Charter Amendment F, which limited police chiefs to two five-year terms and set up a mechanism for more civilian review of officer misconduct, passed by a margin of 2 to 1. The measure carried virtually every part of the city, with the strongest support coming from black, Jewish and Latino neighborhoods. Only in the San Fernando Valley's 12th District did the measure fail to win a majority. But even in that conservative area of the city, police reform came close to passing. The frayed and battered Bradley coalition of African Americans, Latinos, Jews and other white liberals had arisen from the mat for perhaps its greatest victory.
Gates retired on June 26, 1992, though not before ranting publicly that "crummy little politicians" were endangering the department. Bradley left office when his term ended in 1993, having finally prevailed in a battle that had lasted decades.
In April, when the city marked the 20th anniversary of the civil disorder, most observers agreed that one thing had changed: the behavior and accountability of the LAPD. This was no small achievement. It took skilled political leadership, the well-regarded and influential Christopher Commission, and voters who endorsed change despite warnings that Charter Amendment F would make them less safe. In these times of gridlock, the anniversary of that achievement is well worth celebrating.
Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A., is the author of "Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles."
From the Washington Times
Inside the Ring: FBI on social-network risks
by Bill Gertz
The FBI recently published a report warning of the dangers posed by social-network sites that it says are being exploited by digital “con artists, criminals and other dishonest actors.”
The FBI report, made public earlier this month, states that social-networking criminals are “exploiting this capability for nefarious purposes,” using two main tactics.
They include computer hackers who specialize in writing and manipulating computer code to gain access or install software on computers and phones. The second method involves hackers who specialize in exploiting personal connections through social networks.
“Social hackers, sometimes referred to as ‘social engineers,' manipulate people through social interactions (in person, over the phone, or in writing),” the report said.
“Humans are a weak link in cybersecurity, and hackers and social manipulators know this. They try to trick people into getting past security walls. They design their actions to appear harmless and legitimate.”
Social-networking sites such as Facebook and others are Internet-based services that are used to share information and communicate.
According to the FBI, the risk of using social-network sties is that “once information is posted to a social-networking site, it is no longer private.”
“The more information you post, the more vulnerable you may become,” states the report, posted on the National Counterintelligence Executive site. “Even when using high-security settings, friends or websites may inadvertently leak your information.”
Personal information obtained by hackers and criminals on social networks can be used to conduct attacks on people or organizations; and the more information that is shared, “the more likely someone could impersonate you and trick one of your friends into sharing personal information, downloading malware, or providing access to restricted sites,” the report said.
Foreign intelligence agencies, predators, hackers and business competitors are among those who use social-networking sites that can be targeted in attacks. The information may not be used to attack the social-networking site, but could be used in other attacks.
Among the tactics used are infected USB flash drives preloaded with malicious software that are provided to people as part of an attack.
Another method is the use of messages from a friend on the social network that directs you to view a video on another site. However, when you view the video, a message appears asking you to download a new version of the software that is in reality a virus that will then take over your computer.
The malware then communicates to all “friends” on the network directing them to the same virus and thus giving them control of multiple computers.
The FBI report warns computer users to avoid “phishing” scams by not opening email or email attachments or click on links from people you do not know.
“Spear phishing” was behind the March 2011 hacker attack in emails sent to a small group of employees of the security firm RSA , which provided banking and other corporate-security software.
“They only needed one employee to open an infected file and launch the malware,” the report said. “The malware downloaded information from RSA that then helped the hackers learn how to defeat RSA's security token.”
That attack led to the compromise of “a number of defense contractors' networks” that were broken into as a result of the compromised RSA security token.
U.S. officials said at the time that China was thought to have been behind the RSA hack and the subsequent breach of the networks of the defense giant Lockheed Martin.
Another cyberthreat in the FBI report is called “click-jacking,” or concealing hyperlinks beneath legitimate clickable content that, when clicked, causes a user to unknowingly download a computer virus or send a user's identification to a site.
Facebook “like” buttons and digital “share” buttons have been used for this purpose.
The FBI suggests using high-security settings on all social-networking sites to avoid being hacked.
To deal with the problem of unauthorized access to digital communications, especially risks linked to social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, a new, free software was released this month and is rapidly catching on within U.S. and allied intelligence agencies.
The software is called Scrambls. It automatically encrypts messages sent on social-networking sites using software added to Web browsers.
Once installed, all text between two @ signs is scrambled so that only the intended user can read it.
The software was developed by Wave Systems Corp. and is designed to help computer users regain control of messages posted to the Web and social-network sites.
One key feature is that using Scambls allows users to take back messages that were sent, an option currently unavailable for most digital communications.
The company also hopes that the use of the technology will help protect children online by boosting the security of their conversations and communications.
At least one U.S. intelligence service is using the product, and another North American intelligence agency and one Asian service also are interested.
“Greater control enables greater use of social media,” said Michael Sprague, Scrambls co-creator.
“Post confidently, knowing your boss won't see messages meant for high school friends, and permanent records of what you say online won't come back to haunt you in the future.”
Scambls uses key-encryption, where decryption keys are provided to recipients through a browser plug-in. The result is that messages posted on Facebook and Twitter will only be legible to friends who are given the decoding key.
The software is available from www.scrmbls.com