Hate crime reports drop by more than one-third over past decade in California
by Beatriz Valenzuela
The number of hate crimes in California declined by about 12 percent in 2012 and dropped by more than one-third over the past decade.
Los Angeles County, which has a population of nearly 10 million, reported 331 incidents of hate crimes in 2012. San Bernardino County, which boasts a population of about 2 million, had one of the lowest figures in the state with just 23 hate crimes reported last year. With a population of 2.25?million, Riverside County reported 47 such crimes.
There were 930 reported hate crimes in 2012 in California, down from 1,060 in 2011 and 1,491 in 2003, the state Attorney General's Office said Wednesday.
Notably, in 2012, Los Angeles County had the lowest number of hate crimes recorded in 23 years, according to the county's Human Relations Commission.
Officials point to a variety of factors for the reduction in the number of hate crimes, including educating the public, training for law enforcement and outreach programs.
“Effective law enforcement is building bridges with the community they serve and reaching out to that community that needs help,” said Ken Lutz, past president of the Golden State Peace Officers Association, which supports LGBT law enforcement and fire officials as well as the LGBT community.
According to the FBI, racially motivated crimes still make up the bulk of hate crimes in California and across the nation with crimes based on sexual orientation being the second-most common.
Hate crimes based on the victim's race, ethnicity or national origin dropped 10 percent from 587 in 2011 to 528 last year in California. But they still accounted for nearly 57 percent of complaints. Blacks have been the most common target, accounting for about one-third of victims in the past decade.
Blacks in Los Angeles County make up about two-thirds of all racially motivated hate crime victims but only about 8 percent of the county population, according to a report on hate crimes in Los Angeles County released this week by the county's Human Relations Commission.
“Many of those incidents seem to be driven by gangs,” said Marshall Wong, commission spokesperson.
In crimes targeting blacks and in which an aggressor was identified, 68 percent of attackers were Latino, according to the report from the commission. Of those, more than half were identified as gang members, officials said.
Reversely, in incidents in which Latinos were targeted in Los Angeles County, 58 percent of the suspects were identified as black, Wong said.
Hate crimes against gay men in California dropped from 111 in 2011 to 88 last year. But there were 77 crimes targeting gay men in 2003, making that category the only one to show an increase in the 10-year comparison, according to the FBI.
The Los Angeles County study found that transgender people are more apt to be victims of violent hate crimes than any other group.
“Transgendered suffer from the highest rate of violent hate crime by far than any other group,” Wong said.
Many experts contend the higher rate among the LGBT community may not necessarily mean an overall increase in the crimes but an increase in victims reporting the incidents.
“Law enforcement officers in California have received improved training on what a hate crime is and how to classify it,” Lutz said. “When people are comfortable reporting crimes they are more apt to do so.”
Having an effective outreach is critical for law enforcement, Lutz said.
“Just like many departments have Latino liaisons, African-American liaisons, many more are utilizing and seeing the importance of having a liaison for the LGBT community,” he said.
Law enforcement officials in San Bernardino County can participate in a course called Multi-cultural Law Enforcement offered by Victor Valley College. The course, taught by Benn Johnson, emphasizes the importance of tolerance, cultural differences and sensitivities while on the beat. During the class, students have the opportunity to learn from law enforcement members, including two openly gay sheriff's deputies.
As the state makes strides in equality with various legislation, it not only empowers members in the LGBT community, but in some ways has also contributed to a slight rise in actual hate crimes, Wong said.
“We've seen a backlash against some of these members of the community in connection to these types of legislations,” Wong said.
However, that does not seem to translate to other crimes.
As illegal immigration has become a hot topic in various states including California, there was not real change in the number of hate crimes committed against Latinos, the Los Angeles County study found.
“We thought maybe they weren't being reported for fear of retaliation, so we looked at the (Los Angeles Police Department's) reports where Latinos were victims and didn't see a major change at all,” Wong said.
The FBI also stated that hate crimes involving a victim's religion dropped nearly 28 percent last year, from 201 in 2011 to 145 in 2012. Jews were once again the most common target.
The reports are submitted to the Attorney General's Office by California law enforcement agencies and district attorney's offices.
“While overall numbers are down this year, any hate crime hurts the people and values of California,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. “I am confident that California law enforcement will monitor and prosecute these cases to ensure severe consequence and accountability.”
NSA 'planned to discredit radicals over web-porn use'
The US authorities have studied online sexual activity and suggested exposing porn site visits as a way to discredit people who spread radical views, the Huffington Post news site has reported.
It published a document, leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, identifying two Muslims said to be vulnerable to accusations of "online promiscuity".
An official said this was unsurprising.
But campaign group Privacy International called it "frightening".
"Without discussing specific individuals, it should not be surprising that the US government uses all of the lawful tools at our disposal to impede the efforts of valid terrorist targets who seek to harm the nation and radicalise others to violence," Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for National Intelligence, told the Huffington Post.
Privacy International said: "This is not the first time we've seen states use intimate and private information of an individual who holds views the government doesn't agree with, and exploit this information to undermine an individual's message."
The report came shortly after a group of United Nations experts adopted a "right to privacy" resolution.
It will be passed by the UN's General Assembly before the end of the year, but is largely symbolic since it is not legally binding.
The UN's Human Rights Committee said it was "deeply concerned at the negative impact" the interception of data "including extraterritorial surveillance" could have "in particular when carried out on a mass scale".
The latest of Mr Snowden's leaked documents is dated October 2012 and says it was distributed by the office of the director of the NSA to other US government officials.
It names six Muslims whom it describes as "prominent, globally resonating foreign radicalisers" about whom surveillance efforts had revealed potential "vulnerabilities that can be exploited".
It says the information is largely based on gathered "Sunni extremist communications", including material sourced by the FBI.
"Some of the vulnerabilities, if exposed, would likely call into question a radicaliser's devotion to the jihadist cause, leading to the degradation or loss of his authority," it says.
One example is evidence of the target "viewing sexually explicit material online or using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls".
Others include proof of the target:
using donations to pay personal expenses
charging exorbitant speaking fees
using questionable sources and contradictory language in public messages
None of the six individuals who appear in the report are accused of being directly involved in terrorism.
But the document says one of the two said to have been involved in "online promiscuity" had previously been imprisoned for inciting hatred against non-Muslims, and the other had been involved in promoting al-Qaeda propaganda.
Of the four other targets, one is said to be vulnerable to being exposed for being "attracted to fame" and another for having a "glamorous lifestyle".
Privacy International spokesman Mike Rispoli said: "What is frightening about the NSA's capabilities are that they collect massive amounts of information on everyone, including your political beliefs, contacts, relationships and internet histories.
"While these documents suggest this type of personal attacks are targeted in nature, do not forget that the NSA is conducting mass surveillance on the entire world and collecting a vast amount of information on nearly everyone."
A spokeswoman for the NSA's UK equivalent - GCHQ - declined to comment on details of the Huffington Post's report.
But she highlighted the UK government's Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which discusses using the internet to gather evidence against individuals in order to challenge terrorist propaganda.
"All of GCHQ's work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that its activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight," she added.
U.S. Spying Prompts UN Panel to Review Surveillance
by Sangwon Yoon
A United Nations panel responded to disclosures of U.S. spying abroad by adopting a resolution expressing concern over the “negative impact” of such surveillance and reaffirming the individual right to privacy.
While the resolution adopted without objection by the human rights committee doesn't single out the U.S., it was drafted by Brazil and Germany, whose leaders' communications may have been intercepted by the National Security Agency.
The National Security Agency headquarters stands in Fort Meade, Maryland. Source: NSA via Getty Images
The 193-member General Assembly will vote next month on the document, which calls for a report by next year “on the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance and/or interception of digital communications and collection of personal data.”
The move sends a “political message” that “the right to privacy has to be protected” even though the resolution isn't legally binding, Peter Wittig, Germany's ambassador, told reporters after the resolution's adoption.
Germany and Brazil teamed up on the resolution after top-secret documents disclosed by Edward Snowden, a former NSA consultant, indicated the agency had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone and eavesdropped on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff 's private communications.
The language adopted today was softened to reflect objections by the U.S. and U.K. that there is no universal right to privacy, only individual privacy rights in each country.
Several references in an early draft referencing “illegal surveillance” were replaced with “unlawful or arbitrary surveillance.”
The U.S. joins Germany and Brazil in affirming rights to privacy and freedom of expression, “pillars of our democracy,” Elizabeth Cousens, a U.S. delegate to the General Assembly, told the committee before the resolution's adoption.
“In some cases, conduct that violates privacy rights may also seriously impede or even prevent the exercise of freedom of expression, but conduct that violates privacy rights does not violate the right to freedom of expression in every case,” Cousens said.