| NEWS of the Day - February 5, 2013
|on 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 ...
'Greatest birthday' for boy rescued from Alabama bunker by FBI
by Isolde Raftery
An Alabama boy is set for the "greatest" birthday of his life after being freed from a week's captivity in an underground bunker, a pastor said Tuesday.
The boy, snatched from a school bus in a fatal shooting, was rescued after a daring raid by FBI agents that left his kidnapper, Jimmy Lee Dykes, dead.
The 5-year-old, who is recovering in hospital, turns 6 on Wednesday.
“I would image it's going to be the greatest birthday that family and that little boy has ever experienced and probably will ever experience,” local pastor Michael Senn told TODAY.
The boy was reunited with his mother and is "laughing, joking, playing, eating," said Special Agent in Charge Stephen Richardson at a press briefing Monday.
"He's very brave, he's very lucky. His success story is that he got out and he's doing great."
Richardson said the operation began when Dykes was seen holding a gun. "At this point, FBI agents, fearing the child was in imminent danger, entered the bunker and rescued the child.”
The Dothan Eagle newspaper reported that two loud blasts came from the scene shortly before 3:30 p.m. According to the report, an ambulance then drove up the private dirt road where Dykes' homes is located and then left a short time later.
The blast apparently came from a "diversionary device," an FBI source confirmed to NBC News. FBI officers had lowered a camera into the bunker -- they would not reveal how, saying they may want to use the method in the future -- which allowed them to determine when to throw in the flash-bang to distract Dykes.That's when they entered through a door at the top of the bunker.
At the Monday night press briefing, Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said that Dykes, 65, was harmed when officers entered the bunker but he would not say how the captor died. A law enforcement official told NBC News they are waiting for the medical examiner's report to determine how he died.
The ordeal began at 3:30 p.m. CT last Tuesday when Dykes -- described by his neighbors as a paranoid survivalist -- grabbed the boy from a school bus in Midland City, Ala.
Dykes boarded the bus and demanded that the bus driver, Charles Poland, 66, turn over two young children. When Poland refused, Dykes fatally shot him and took the boy.
Dykes, a decorated Vietnam veteran, took Ethan to an underground bunker that neighbors had seen him digging. The bunker is believed to be roughly 8 feet by 6 feet and to be stocked with supplies. The bunker has a ventilation pipe that authorities used to deliver items. Authorities have not said how long they believe Dykes could have lasted underground, or discussed a motive for the kidnapping.
Over the last week, hostage negotiators delivered a red Hot Wheels car, Cheez-Its crackers and other food and medicine to the boy, who has a mild form of autism. The FBI said Sunday that the boy's captor “continues to make the environment as comfortable as possible for the child.”
The boy has Asperger's syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a state representative said last week.
Law enforcement officials remained largely mum about the details of the case, possibly because it was believed that Dykes kept a television set in the bunker. Early on in the negotiations, they moved reporters farther from the scene. Throughout the week, they canceled press conferences, saying that nothing had changed.
Many of the law enforcement press conferences appeared to have been directed more at Dykes than at reporters. Sheriff Olson went so far as to thank Dykes “for taking care of our child.”
“That's very important,” Olson said.
Before the standoff ended on Monday, Olson told reporters that Dykes "feels like he has a story that's important to him. ... Although it's very complex, we're trying to make a safe environment.”
At the Monday night press briefing, Olson would not say what that story was, repeating that the investigation was ongoing and that the crime scene still needed to be processed. But he was passionate -- and willing to discuss -- Ethan.
"This boy is a very special child. He's been through and endured a lot and by the grace of God, he's OK," Olson said. "That was the mission of every man and woman on this compound. Of every law enforcement officer, every first responder, and all of the community who prayed to bring him home safely."
Former FBI hostage negotiator Clint Van Zandt said on the TODAY show that patience is key in hostage situations.
“Eighty-five percent or more of standoff situations like this end nonviolently,” Van Zandt said on Saturday. “Law enforcement doesn't want to do anything precipitously that could cause anybody to be hurt at this time when the talking cure will likely work in this situation.”
Following the end of the hostage situation, Alabama Gov. Robert J. Bentley released a statement, hailing the efforts to save the boy but mourning the death of the bus driver:
"I am thankful that the child who was abducted is now safe. I am so happy this little boy can now be reunited with his family and friends. We will all continue to pray for the little boy and his family as they recover from the trauma of the last several days."
President Barack Obama also weighed in, calling FBI Director Robert Mueller to compliment his officers.
Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans
by Michael Isikoff
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration's most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week's hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director. Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”
But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.
“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.
Read the entire 'white paper' on drone strikes on Americans
Instead, it says, an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”
As in Holder's speech, the confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful: In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.
The undated memo is entitled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa'ida or An Associated Force.” It was provided to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees in June by administration officials on the condition that it be kept confidential and not discussed publicly.
Although not an official legal memo, the white paper was represented by administration officials as a policy document that closely mirrors the arguments of classified memos on targeted killings by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which provides authoritative legal advice to the president and all executive branch agencies. The administration has refused to turn over to Congress or release those memos publicly -- or even publicly confirm their existence. A source with access to the white paper, which is not classified, provided a copy to NBC News.
“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, which is suing to obtain administration memos about the targeted killing of Americans. “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. … It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it's easy to see how they could be manipulated.”
In particular, Jaffer said, the memo “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the white paper. The spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler, instead pointed to public speeches by what she called a “parade” of administration officials, including Brennan, Holder, former State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh and former Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson that she said outlined the “legal framework” for such operations.
Pressure for turning over the Justice Department memos on targeted killings of Americans appears to be building on Capitol Hill amid signs that Brennan will be grilled on the subject at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
On Monday, a bipartisan group of 11 senators -- led by Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon — wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to release all Justice Department memos on the subject. While accepting that “there will clearly be circumstances in which the president has the authority to use lethal force” against Americans who take up arms against the country, it said, “It is vitally important ... for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority.”
The completeness of the administration's public accounts of its legal arguments was also sharply criticized last month by U.S. Judge Colleen McMahon in response to a lawsuit brought by the New York Times and the ACLU seeking access to the Justice Department memos on drone strikes targeting Americans under the Freedom of Information Act. McMahon, describing herself as being caught in a “veritable Catch-22,” said she was unable to order the release of the documents given “the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for the conclusion a secret.”
In her ruling, McMahon noted that administration officials “had engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of citizens.” But, she wrote, they have done so “in cryptic and imprecise ways, generally without citing … any statute or court decision that justifies its conclusions.”
In one passage in Holder's speech at Northwestern in March, he alluded – without spelling out—that there might be circumstances where the president might order attacks against American citizens without specific knowledge of when or where an attack against the U.S. might take place.
“The Constitution does not require the president to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning, when the precise time, place and manner of an attack become clear,” he said.
But his speech did not contain the additional language in the white paper suggesting that no active intelligence about a specific attack is needed to justify a targeted strike. Similarly, Holder said in his speech that targeted killings of Americans can be justified if “capture is not feasible.” But he did not include language in the white paper saying that an operation might not be feasible “if it could not be physically effectuated during the relevant window of opportunity or if the relevant country (where the target is located) were to decline to consent to a capture operation.” The speech also made no reference to the risk that might be posed to U.S. forces seeking to capture a target, as was mentioned in the white paper.
The white paper also includes a more extensive discussion of why targeted strikes against Americans does not violate constitutional protections afforded American citizens as well as a U.S. law that criminalizes the killing of U.S. nationals overseas.
It also discusses why such targeted killings would not be a war crime or violate a U.S. executive order banning assassinations.
“A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” the white paper reads. “In the Department's view, a lethal operation conducted against a U.S. citizen whose conduct poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States would be a legitimate act of national self-defense that would not violate the assassination ban. Similarly, the use of lethal force, consistent with the laws of war, against an individual who is a legitimate military target would be lawful and would not violate the assassination ban.”
Greensboro Police release 2012 crime statistics
GREENSBORO, NC — Property crime is way down and violent crime is slightly up in Greensboro, according to Police Chief Ken Miller.
Reports of murder, rape, and robbery all fell in 2012 while the number of assaults rose.
Property crimes like burglary, larceny and auto theft were down across the board.
Chief Miller credits community policing for the drop, saying citizens getting involved by keeping police well-informed helped to stop many crimes before they could happen.
Chief Miller said violent crimes are often relationship-driven, and that community policing will not have the same effect when the issue lies between individuals or a group of people who know each other instead of strangers.
“It's difficult from a police perspective to police that proactively,” Chief Miller said.
To help drop violent crimes, Chief Miller suggested a family justice center.
“You've heard me talk about the importance of a family justice center where we have a lot of resources co- located. I think that's of enormous importance for our community but it requires the county and the city to pull together, and with several budgetary cuts it's just tough to make that happen,” Chief Miller said.