November, 2015 - Week 4
Suspect spoke of 'baby parts' after Planned Parenthood shooting
by Ben Brumfield and Panela Brown
What moved a man to kill three people and wound nine others at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado has not been disclosed. But the suspect accused of carrying out the shooting spree, Robert Lewis Dear, made remarks about "baby parts" to investigators after his surrender, a law enforcement official told CNN.
Dear, 57, told them he has anti-abortion and anti-government views, but that doesn't mean those opinions were his motive for allegedly shooting up the Colorado Springs clinic on Friday, the official said. It's too early to tell, as investigators are still processing evidence.
After a nearly six-hour bloody standoff that left one police officer dead and five others wounded, the accused shooter dropped his gun after a SWAT team drove up an armored police vehicle, a BearCat, and cornered him, the official said.
Law enforcement officers found propane tanks in the area of Dear's car in the parking lot and believe he was trying to shoot them to cause an explosion, the official said.
'Crime against women'
In the absence of an announced motive, public officials in Colorado and beyond are drawing their own conclusions about the attack.
It was a "crime against women receiving health care services," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She pledged the full resources of her office to investigate.
"Inferences (could be made) from where it took place," Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told the Denver Post.
Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, went beyond an inference, saying the shooter "was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion."
A hermit's shanty
Dear is being held without bail in a Colorado Springs jail, according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. He is due to appear in court Monday afternoon.
Shown in police photos with dark hair and a fluffy white beard, the suspect appears to have lived a long time in rural solitude in the Carolinas, then more recently in Colorado. Over a decade ago, he had some run-ins with the law while living in South Carolina, but was never convicted.
In 1997, Dear's wife accused him of domestic assault, although no charges were pressed, according to records from the Colleton County Sheriff's Office in South Carolina.
In 2002, Dear was charged with being a peeping tom; those counts were dismissed.
In 2003, he was arrested and charged with two counts of animal cruelty, but he was found not guilty in a bench trial.
He later made his home in a hermit shanty in the mountains of North Carolina, CNN affiliate WLOS reported. It published a photo of a small, basic cabin in the woods of Buncombe County.
The sheriff's office there knew Dear from a single a civil citation issued in 2014 for allowing his dogs to run wild.
About a year ago, Dear chose the crossroads community of Hartsel, Colorado, as his home, according to public records. It is nestled in grassy plains and rolling foothills framed by Rocky Mountain ranges and is about an hour and 20 minutes' drive from Colorado Springs.
Dear bought a spread -- 65 miles west of the Planned Parenthood clinic -- for $6,000.
Zigmond Post, a neighbor, said Dear brought him some anti-Obama pamphlets once. "That's about all I've run into him," he said.
It's safe to say that few people knew who Dear was until he walked out of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood after allegedly shooting 12 people and terrorizing many others.
Scanners relay police plans
Conversations captured over the police scanner gave glimpses into the drama inside the clinic as well as the strategic debate about how to stop the suspect and get his hostages to safety at the same time.
Joan Motolinia's sister was among those inside. She called him Friday afternoon, and he could hear the shooting in the background, he said.
"She couldn't say much because she was afraid," Motolinia said, shedding tears as he recounted the call.
Beloved officer killed
Officer Garrett Swasey died along with two civilian victims in the hail of bullets. He was an elder in his church and a former figure skating artist.
Swasey was a University of Colorado Colorado Springs officer who rushed to the clinic to offer his assistance. "There was no way any of us could have kept him here," said UCCS Police Chief Brian McPike. "He was always willing to go...he had an enthusiasm that was hard to quell."
Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said that the identities of the other two victims probably won't be released until Monday, after autopsies have been performed.
Obama: 'Enough is enough'
In a statement on Saturday, President Barack Obama offered praise for Swasey, condolences to the families of the victims and condemnation of the attack as another example of gun violence.
"This is not normal. We can't let it become normal," Obama said. "If we truly care about this -- if we're going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience -- then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.
"Period. Enough is enough."
Planned Parenthood videos
Planned Parenthood has recently endured intense political and social opposition.
Eight undercover videos released over the summer by anti-abortion activists have stirred caustic criticism against the reproductive health clinic. It has even filled the halls of Capitol Hill, where conservative politicians have demanded its defunding.
Planned Parenthood has said the videos, which alleged illegal fetal organ sales, were heavily edited and inaccurate.
At least three of the organization's buildings have been vandalized since September, not long after the last video appeared.
Cleveland police shooting of Tamir Rice was unjustified, experts conclude
by Graham Rayman and Rich Schapiro
Two independent experts have concluded that the fatal police shooting of Tamir Rice was unjustified, the Daily News has learned.
The 12-year-old boy was carrying a toy gun on Nov. 22, 2014 when he was gunned down in a Cleveland park by a cop who opened fire seconds after hopping out of his patrol car.
“The shooting of Tamir Rice was inconsistent with generally accepted standards and norms in police practices and ... it was an unreasonable and unjustified use of deadly force,” reads a report written by law enforcement expert Roger Clark. “The killing of this child was completely avoidable and preventable, and should never have occurred.”
The boy's mother Samaria Rice, who is slated to testify before the grand jury on Monday, said the reports validated what she's believed all along. She specifically pointed to the experts' emphasis on the officers opening fire within two seconds of coming upon her son.
“Nobody, not a child, not an adult, can do anything in less than two seconds," the 38-year-old mom said. “They didn't give it any time to at least see what was going on."
Rice family lawyer Earl Ward sent the reports to Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty Friday as the lengthy grand jury investigation into Rice's death limps along.
The reports contradict two others released by McGinty's office last month that concluded the two cops, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, acted reasonably. McGinty claimed he pushed out the reports in the interest of transparency, but Ward has argued it was part of a calculated effort to muddy the grand jury process.
In a letter to McGinty that accompanied the reports, Ward said he understands they “will likely not undo the damage already done to the grand jury process.”
“But we think it important to consider the testimony and findings of true experts to explain why this killing was unjustified,” it adds.
Ward also reiterated his call for McGinty to recuse himself from the case in favor of an independent prosecutor — a request that the Cuyahoga County prosecutor has dismissed.
The shooting of Rice was set in motion when a 911 caller reported seeing a youth in a park with a gun that was “probably fake.” The dispatcher failed to tell the two responding officers those two key pieces of information.
A grainy surveillance video captured the officers arriving at the scene and Loehmann opening fire, striking Rice once in the chest. “The record is uncontested that Tamir was not acting aggressively nor was he threatening or endangering anyone at that time,” Clark wrote in his report.
Jeff Noble, a former deputy police chief in the California cities of Irvine and Westminster, sharply criticized the two responding cops in his 18-page report.
“Officers Garmback and Loehmann engaged in reckless tactical decision making that created the danger, thus the use of deadly force was excessive, objectively unreasonable and inconsistent with generally accepted police practices,” Noble wrote.
Also Saturday, McGinty's office released enhanced video stills of the fatal police encounter that killed Rice.
The most revealing of the 326 frames offer a crisp narrative of the seconds leading up to Rice's death, with the officers in their patrol car quickly closing ground on him.
Text accompanying the images suggest that Rice's movements could have appeared threatening to the responding officers.
“Rice moves toward police vehicle 5 seconds before police vehicle stops,” reads the narrative accompanying one photo.
The next few clips capture the moments before Rice is gunned down. “Rice moves forward and lowers arm to waist,” it reads. “Vehicle still in motion. Passenger door opens.”
“Rice's shoulder and arms move upward,” the text accompanying another clip reads. “Vehicle still in motion...Loehmann exits vehicle.” The following still shows Loehmann standing a mere few feet from Rice, the officer's gun pointed directly at the boy. “Rice reacts to gunshot,” the text reads.
Burger King manager: Police erased video of Chicago shooting
It's not clear what that video might have shown, but the accusation of tampering has fueled the anger of protesters
by The Associated Press
CHICAGO — A Burger King manager who accuses Chicago police of erasing surveillance video in the case of a black teenager shot last year by a white officer says he has testified before a federal grand jury investigating the shooting.
Jay Darshane told the Chicago Tribune that the FBI also took the video recorder containing all of the restaurant's surveillance images.
It's not clear what that video might have shown, but the accusation of tampering has fueled the anger of protesters who say the city, the police and local prosecutors have mishandled the case. After months of refusals, the city released police squad car video of the shooting on Tuesday in response to a judge's order. But both the police chief and the Cook County state's attorney deny the Burger King video was altered.
The Burger King is just yards from where 17-year-old Laquan McDonald fell when the first few rounds struck him. It took just minutes for police to demand to see the restaurant's password-protected video, Darshane said.
"I was just trying to help the police with their investigation," Darshane said. "I didn't know they were going to delete it."
He said that when the officers left, almost two hours later, there was an 86-minute gap in the recording, including the time surrounding the shooting.
Darshane told the Tribune he testified about the missing video before a grand jury earlier this year. The Associated Press could not reach Darshane for comment on Saturday.
Federal prosecutors said this week that their investigation is continuing, but would not comment further.
The Cook County state's attorney this past week announced a state-level charge of first-degree murder against the officer.
McDonald was shot 16 times after being pursued by police responding to a complaint about car break-ins. He was carrying a knife. The officer's attorney says his client fired because he feared for his life, and that he acted lawfully and within police department guidelines.
At a news conference announcing the charge, State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said forensic testing found no evidence that anyone intentionally erased the Burger King video. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy called the allegation "absolutely untrue."
Minn. police shooting, disparities spur talk of special session
Some have suggested providing financial incentives to businesses to hire minority employees
by Brian Bakst and Kyle Potter
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota's lawmakers and community leaders are brainstorming how to aid their state's hurting black community in a possible special session, though some acknowledge the issues may prove too weighty to take on in a one-day legislative blitz.
This month's death of a black man shot by Minneapolis police only amplified calls to address longstanding — and widening — economic disparities between Minnesota's white and black residents.
Though Gov. Mark Dayton and other prominent Democrats have publicly backed tackling such issues, any agenda is murky. It could include some measures the Legislature considered earlier this year, such as workforce development grants to train chronically unemployed minorities and a small business incubator program for minority entrepreneurs. Others have suggested providing financial incentives to businesses to hire minority employees like the state currently does for veterans.
But with Jamar Clark's death leading to high tension between police and protesters outside of a Minneapolis police precinct, Rep. Raymond Dehn said criminal justice matters may need to wait for a full airing in 2016.
"Emotions are raw. The community is in a lot of pain. A lot of people have said a lot of things but we also have to be thoughtful and engage the community on the way they see improving the community and police relationship," said Dehn, a Minneapolis Democrat who represents the north Minneapolis area where Clark was killed.
The Legislature isn't set to return until early March. Dayton's initial request for a special session was meant to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off steelworkers on the state's Iron Range. But top Democrats spurred talk of addressing the longstanding racial disparities as well.
A recent U.S. Census Bureau report shows median incomes for black Minnesota residents plunged by 14 percent from 2013 to 2014, while poverty rates increased from 33 percent to 38 percent. The statewide poverty rate for all races remained stable at 11 percent.
State demographer Susan Brower said there's reason to question whether the one-year swing was as severe as suggested, but that it's indisputable that black residents in Minnesota aren't faring as well as the rest of the state.
Sen. Jeffrey Hayden, one of three black lawmakers in the 201-member state Legislature, wants to start a possible special session with proposals that got a thorough airing last session but didn't make it across the finish line.
"It by no means would solve the issue but it would send a strong signal to these communities that the Legislature is concerned about it and wants to start working on it," the Minneapolis Democrat said. "You're seeing people very isolated in terms of their ability to participate in society — get a job, take care of their families, buy a home."
Hayden and Dehn both acknowledged that broader proposals may have to wait, such as lowering drug sentencing guidelines, altering policing standards and restoring voting rights to felons more quickly after they're released from prison.
House Republicans have been noncommittal about discussing the economic disparities in a special session, with House Speaker Kurt Daudt saying the Legislature shouldn't single out Iron Range miners or a minority community but instead pass policies that help all residents.
House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin said she's worried about overloading an agenda.
"Every week there's a new topic," she said. "And it's getting to the point where maybe we should just handle this in 2016," she said.
Regardless of whether a special session takes shape, Hayden said he's preparing bring a full slate of proposals to the 2016 session that are designed to tackle systemic problems.
"We have kicked the can down the road on disparities for a long time," Hayden said.
ICE policy a commitment to public safety
by Michael Moore
Monterey County is a diverse community. We enjoy our spectacular coastlines, vineyards, parks and the designation of the Salad Bowl of the World, to name a few. What makes this possible is the vast majority of hardworking, law-abiding residents of the county, including, and as routinely pointed out by many, the “largest population of undocumented immigrants” in California.
For the past few weeks, opponents of Sheriff Steve Bernal's commitment to public safety in the county continue to decry the cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They continually allege the Sheriff's Office is enforcing immigration law and that it will have a chilling effect on the undocumented residents of our county. However, unlike the opponents, Sheriff Bernal regularly meets with residents of Monterey County to discuss cooperation with ICE and allay the fears any resident may have rather than stoke undue fear through misleading and factually incorrect stories of deputies enforcing immigration law.
Sheriff Bernal has made it perfectly clear that none of his deputies is enforcing immigration law. No victim or witness of a crime will be asked their resident status. No ICE agent rides on patrol with our deputies. ICE agents do not monitor our calls for service and our policy of assisting ICE in the field is limited to officer safety calls.
ICE agents do, however, have a presence in the Monterey County Jail. They are there to identify people who have been arrested for a crime committed in our community and who meet the criteria under the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). Although each designation has several categories, Priority 1 covers prior felony convictions and street gang affiliation and Priority 2 is one “significant” misdemeanor conviction (drug distribution, domestic violence, DUI, battery) or three separate misdemeanor convictions not including minor traffic offenses.
The opponents will tell you misleading stories of individuals (not in Monterey County) who reported crimes only to be “vulnerable to deportation” by ICE in an attempt to change opinions based on emotion rather than the truth. However, in Monterey County each person removed by ICE was arrested for a crime and found to have prior convictions or was convicted for the crime they were originally arrested. In fact, since Aug. 14 ICE has removed more than 140 people from the Monterey County Jail. All were arrested for a crime in our community and had a criminal conviction(s) as defined by Priority 1 or 2 of PEP.
For example, a Northside Castroville gang member was arrested for murder and DUI. He has prior convictions for domestic violence and battery. Another suspect was arrested for possession of stolen property and has prior convictions for possessing stolen property and DUI. Additionally, he was identified as an 18th Street gang member. Both suspects were removed by ICE and not released back into our community.
Without ICE in the jail, Sheriff Bernal would be required to release the above examples back into the community. This is not an argument about misguided immigration policy. On the contrary, this is about Sheriff Bernal's commitment to public safety and keeping people with prior criminal convictions out of the community and away from the hardworking, law-abiding residents of the county, documented and undocumented.
Michael Moore is chief deputy of the Monterey County Sheriff's Office Corrections Operations Bureau in Salinas.
Thousands of kids crossed U.S.-Mexico border last month
October migrant total is double that from 2014
by Seth Robbins
SAN ANTONIO - Nearly 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children were caught illegally crossing the U.S. border with Mexico in October, almost double the number from October 2014, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.
Also, in the figures released Tuesday, the number of family members crossing together nearly tripled from October 2014 - from 2,162 to 6,029.
The numbers spiked despite expectations of lower numbers due to the colder winter months coming, better enforcement along the border and efforts by Mexican authorities to stem the stream of Central American migrants to the U.S. Though tens of thousands of women and children from Central America were caught in summer 2014, it had dropped by nearly half during the 2015 federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
Bucking a trend
The 4,973 unaccompanied children caught at the border last month is the highest number that Washington, D.C.-based think tank Washington Office on Latin America has recorded for October since their records began in 2009, said Adam Isacson, a border expert and senior analyst.
The high numbers buck the typical trends of crossings peaking in spring then declining through summer and fall, Isacson said. But there was an uptick in families and children crossing in July, and the numbers have stayed over 4,000 each month since.
"Rather than a big jump, it's been a steady burn," he said. "I think we are almost in crisis mode with this many months of sustained arrivals."
Most children and families trying to cross the border in October were from El Salvador. Increased violence in the tiny country, which averaged 30 murders a day in August, is likely partly to blame, Isacson said. Previously, Guatemala had the most families and children apprehended at the border.
$5,000 to cross
While the Rio Grande Valley remains the center of migration flows in Texas, immigrants are starting to venture farther west. The number of unaccompanied children caught in Del Rio sector jumped from 120 to 237, while 187 children were apprehended in the Big Bend area, up from just 13 a year ago.
According to internal intelligence files from the Homeland Security Department, most families interviewed told Customs and Border Protection officials that smugglers decided where they would try to cross. They reported the cost ranged from about $5,000 to cross the border near Matamoros or Reynosa, Mexico, across the border from the Rio Grande Valley, but was about $1,500 to $2,000 to cross near Ciudad Acuna, across the river from Del Rio.
The administration was caught off guard by the sudden surge of children and families in 2014 and made several efforts to curb the flow of people crossing the border illegally. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that the campaigns are still in place and highlight that "those attempting to come here illegally are a top priority for removal."
Governors Could Restore Voting Rights To Millions Of People If They Wanted To
More people with past felony convictions will soon get to vote in Kentucky. But Iowans and Floridians still face many hurdles.
by Samantha Lachman
There's a growing bipartisan consensus in Congress that restoring voting rights for people with felony convictions is a crucial aspect of criminal justice reform.
But governors have a massive amount of discretion in deciding whether to reinstate voting rights for millions of ex-felons who are still denied the right to vote , as recent decisions in Kentucky and Iowa illustrate.
On Tuesday, Kentucky's outgoing Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, signed an executive order that would automatically restore voting rights to at least 140,000 former felons who have served their sentences. Kentucky is just one of just three states, along with Florida and Iowa, that permanently disenfranchises all people with felony convictions. Up until now, a Kentuckian with a felony conviction would have to individually petition the governor to have his or her rights restored.
As in other states, permanent felon disenfranchisement disproportionately affects racial minorities. An estimated 1 in 5 African-Americans in Kentucky are disenfranchised, compared to 1 in 13 nationally.
"All of our society will be better off if we actively work to help rehabilitate those who have made a mistake," Beshear said. "And the more we do that, the more the entire society will benefit."
The reprieve could be short-lived, however. Kentucky's incoming governor, Republican Matt Bevin, could sign another executive order that would undo Beshear's mass voting rights restoration. Though Bevin has said in the past that he supports the automatic restoration of voting rights, there's no telling what intra-party pressure could do.
“Governor Beshear's actions are not permanent,"ACLU Program Director Kate Miller wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. "Since felon voting rights restrictions are enshrined in the Kentucky Constitution, it will take legislative action to start the process to make these changes permanent law.”
Miller added that since Bevin “has been vocal in his support of restoration of voting rights,” the ACLU remains “hopeful he will allow these changes to stand while we work with the General Assembly to reform our out-of-date laws.”
Acknowledging that his executive order could be revoked, Beshear said in a press conference that he hoped the state's legislature would put a constitutional amendment on the ballot so individuals who have served their sentences would have their rights automatically restored in the future.
The Democratic-controlled state House has already passed legislation that automatically restores voting rights to some people with felony convictions, but there's been more gridlock in the Republican-controlled state Senate. The GOP leadership there wants to institute a five-year waiting period before ex-felons can apply to have their rights restored, but Democrats have rejected the proposal.
The ACLU of Kentucky is urging Kentuckians to act quickly to have their rights restored, “while the opportunity is available.”
In recent years, other states have have also restored voting rights to more people with past convictions. Over the past five years, six states -- Delware, New Jersey, Wyoming, Iowa, New York and Virginia -- have enacted reforms to the voting rights restoration process, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
In 2005, Iowa's then-governor, Democrat Tom Vilsack, issued an executive order allowing approximately 80,000 Iowan citizens to vote, ending the state's permanent disenfranchisement of former felons. But Republican Gov. Terry Branstad reversed this action in 2011. (He has since made the application process to have rights restored slightly less difficult by removing a credit report requirement.)
The ACLU of Iowa is challenging the state constitution's definition of “infamous crimes,” a 19th century standard that still dictates which Iowans can vote when they finish their sentence. Very few people with felony convictions have successfully navigated the onerous process to have their rights restored. The ACLU's lead plaintiff, Kelli Jo Griffin, was nearly prosecuted for perjury after she attempted to vote five years after she served a period of probation for a low-level drug offense. She was unaware that her voting rights had been permanently revoked.
The Iowa Supreme Court is likely to hear arguments in the ACLU's case next year, with a decision possible in June. That would allow people with past felony convictions to register to vote in the 2016 elections.
“Whether or not somebody is eligible to vote in our state really shouldn't depend on who the governor is,” said Jeremy Rosen, the executive director of the ACLU of Iowa.
In Florida, a coalition of civil rights groups has launched a petition drive to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2016 that would undo the state's permanent disenfranchisement of people with felony convictions. More than 1.6 million Floridians cannot vote -- or about 9 percent of people in the state. Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 African-Americans in Florida can't vote, and 17 percent of the state's population is black.
As in Iowa and Kentucky, gubernatorial discretion plays a huge role in rights restoration. Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) signed an executive order in 2007 restoring rights to nonviolent offenders who had served their time, but his order was rescinded when the current governor, Republican Rick Scott, took office in 2011.
The policy change had ramifications for thousands. In 2009 and 2010, Crist restored voting rights to more than 30,000 people with felony convictions. In 2013 and 2014, after Scott took office, only 911 former felons had their rights restored, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Public safety doesn't get a day off
by Briana Harris
When making the decision to become a firefighter, police officer or any other type of emergency personnel, Decatur Fire and Rescue Lt. Tony Mansell said working on holidays should be an expectation.
“Somebody's got to do it,” he said. “For us, Thanksgiving is no different than any other day. We're here for the citizens of Decatur, and whatever comes up, we will respond to it.”
On Thanksgiving, 33 firefighters will be on duty in Decatur. Gerald Ward, regional director of Lifeguard Ambulance, said six EMS personnel will be on duty in Morgan County. The ambulance provider serves all of Morgan County, with the exception of Decatur and Trinity.
Ward said responding to calls where someone is critically or fatally injured can be difficult during the holidays.
“When someone is critically injured or dies, you just think about that family and the fact that their loved one will be in the hospital or won't be there,” Ward said. “But that's what our job is. We strive to be the best part of someone's worst day.”
Firefighters and EMS personnel work 24-hour shifts. Mansell said most fire stations try to make the best of working on holidays by cooking their own Thanksgiving meals.
“We're sort of a second family to each other, so we're still able to enjoy the day even though we're not home with our families.”
Ward said Lifeguard Ambulance also will have a Thanksgiving meal for its workers. He said Lifeguard is providing a turkey, and the employees will contribute side dishes.
Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said churches and other organizations may bring food by the police department or invite officers for dinner.
Mansell and Ward said some families may stop by to spend time with their loved ones working a holiday. Johnson said he tries to allow officers to go home for a little while on holidays to spend time with family.
“Especially with Christmas,” Johnson said. “Some of our officers have young children, and if they come to us about wanting to go home to watch their kids open presents or something like that, we try to help them out. Family is very important to us.”
Ward said he hopes the public is appreciative of the sacrifices emergency personnel make during the holiday season.
“I just hope that the public keeps public safety workers in mind and remembers that while they are at home celebrating, fire, police and EMS are still out going about the day and keeping people safe,” Ward said.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Fact Sheet: Refugee Security Screening
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is deeply committed to safeguarding the American public from threats to public safety and national security, just as we are committed to providing refuge to some of the world's most vulnerable people. These goals are not mutually exclusive.
This fact sheet provides information about the security screening and background checks required by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The USRAP is an interagency effort involving a number of governmental and non-governmental partners both overseas and in the United States. Refugee applicants are subject to the highest degree of security screening and background checks for any category of traveler to the United States.
All refugee applicants and their family members included in the application must complete and clear biographic and biometric security checks. Through close coordination with the federal law enforcement and intelligence communities, these checks are continually reviewed and enhanced to address specific populations that may pose particular threats.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identifies and refers many cases to the USRAP for resettlement and provides important information about the worldwide refugee situation.
The Department of State (State) has overall coordination and management responsibility for the USRAP. Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs), under cooperative agreements with State, carry out administrative and processing functions, such as file preparation, data collection, and out-processing activities during the refugee admissions process. USCIS is responsible for conducting individual interviews with applicants to determine their eligibility for refugee status, including whether they meet the refugee definition and are otherwise admissible to the United States under U.S. law.
General Refugee Process
USRAP screening includes both biometric and biographic checks, which occur at multiple stages throughout the process, including immediately before a refugee's departure to the United States as well as upon arrival in the U.S.
The screening of refugee applicants involves numerous biographic checks that are initiated by the RSCs and reviewed/resolved by USCIS. These include:
Department of State Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) - 1
CLASS name checks are initiated by DOS for all refugee applicants at the time of pre-screening by the the RSC. Name checks are conducted on the applicant's primary names as well as any aliases. Responses are received prior to interview and possible matches to applicants are reviewed and adjudicated by USCIS Headquarters. Evidence of the response is forwarded for inclusion in the case file. If a new name or alias is identified at the interview, USCIS requests another CLASS name check on the new name, and places the case on hold until that response is received.
Security Advisory Opinion (SAO) - 2
The SAO is a DOS-initiated biographic check conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and intelligence community partners. SAO name checks are initiated at the time of pre-screening by the RSC for the groups and nationalities designated by the U.S. government as requiring this higher level check. SAOs are processed, and a response must be received prior to finalizing the decision. If there is a new name or alias identified at the interview, USCIS requests that another SAO be conducted on the new name, and places the case on hold until that response is received.
Interagency Checks (IAC)
The IAC consists of screening biographic data, including names, dates of birth and other data points of all refugee applicants within designated age ranges. This information is captured at the time of pre-screening and is provided to intelligence community partners. This screening procedure was initiated in 2008 and has expanded over time to include a broader range of holdings. These checks occur throughout the process.
At the time of USCIS interview, USCIS staff collects fingerprints and initiates biometric checks. The biometric checks initiated by USCIS for refugee applicants include:
FBI Fingerprint Check through Next Generation Identification (NGI)
Recurring biometric record checks pertaining to criminal history and previous immigration data.
DHS Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT - f/n/a US-VISIT)
A biometric record check related to travel and immigration history as well as immigration violations, and law enforcement and national security concerns. Enrollment in IDENT also allows CBP to confirm identity at the port of entry.
DoD Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency (DFBA)'s Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS)
A biometric record check of DoD holdings collected in areas of conflict (predominantly Iraq and Afghanistan). DoD screening began in 2007 for Iraqi applicants has now been expanded to all nationalities. CBP's National Targeting Center-Passenger (NTC-P) conducts biographic vetting of all ABIS biometric matches (both derogatory and benign) against various classified and unclassified U.S. Government databases.
The USCIS refugee interview itself is a vital part of the refugee screening process. Highly trained USCIS officers conduct extensive interviews with each refugee applicant to elicit information about the applicant's admissibility and claim for refugee status. These officers have undergone specialized and extensive training on refugee law, grounds of inadmissibility, fraud detection and prevention, security protocols, interviewing techniques, credibility analysis, and country conditions research. Before deploying overseas, officers also receive additional training on the specific population that they will be interviewing, detailed country of origin information, and updates on any fraud trends or security issues that have been identified. Officers conducting interviews of Syrian applicants now undergo an expanded one-week training focusing on Syria-specific topics, including a classified intelligence briefing. During the interview, the officer develops lines of questioning to elicit information regarding any involvement in terrorist activity, criminal activity or the persecution/torture of others, and conducts a credibility assessment on each applicant.
Controlled Application Review and Resolution Process (CARRP)
During the adjudication of any USCIS benefit, if any national security concerns are raised, either based on security and background checks or personal interviews or other testimony, USCIS conducts an additional review through the internal CARRP process.
Syria Enhanced Review
USCIS' Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate and Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) have collaborated to provide enhanced review of certain Syrian cases. This review involves FDNS providing intelligence-driven support to refugee adjudicators, including threat identification, lines of inquiry, monitoring watch lists and disseminating intelligence information reports on those applicants determined to present a national security threat.
Applicants approved for refugee resettlement must be inspected and determined admissible to the United States by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) before being admitted as a refugee. CBP receives a manifest of all approved individuals who have made reservations to travel to the United States. CBP receives this manifest eight days before the scheduled travel. CBP performs initial vetting of the individuals before they arrive at a port of entry and conducts an inspection additional background checks of these individuals upon arrival at a U.S. Port of Entry.
1 - CLASS is a State name-check database that posts use to access critical information for visa adjudication. The system contains records provided by numerous agencies and includes information on persons with visa refusals, immigration violations, criminal histories, and terrorism concerns, as well as intelligence information and child support enforcement data. In addition to containing information from DOS sources, sources for information in CLASS includes NCTC/TSC (terrorist watch lists), TECS, Interpol, DEA, HHS and FBI (extracts of the NCIC Wanted Person, Immigration Violator, Foreign Fugitive Files, VGTOF, and the Interstate Identification Index).
2 - The Security Advisory Opinion process was implemented after September 11, 2001, to provide a mechanism for additional scrutiny to certain high-risk categories of individuals seeking visas to enter the U.S.
Shooting video latest stain on Chicago's policing record
(Videos on site)
by Steve Schmadeke, Jason Meisner and Bill Ruthhart
Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a video of an African-American teen being fatally shot by a white police officer Tuesday just hours after authorities charged the veteran cop with murder, all the while trying to head off violent protests city officials feared might result from the images of the teen twisting and falling as he is riddled with bullets.
Moments after Emanuel and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy released the video that the city had fought to withhold for much of the year, the footage quickly spread across the Internet and national television broadcasts.
The October 2014 video shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald shot repeatedly as he walked down the middle of a Southwest Side street, part of the evidence to support allegations that Officer Jason Van Dyke fired 16 shots into the teen's body in 14 seconds.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez charged Van Dyke with first-degree murder Tuesday, saying she made the announcement earlier than planned out of concern for "public safety." She did not elaborate on those concerns, but Emanuel had urged her office to wrap up its investigation before the city would be forced to comply with a Cook County judge's Wednesday deadline to release the dashboard camera video.
For more than a week, concerns swirled that the release of the video could prompt widespread protests like those following police-involved deaths of African-Americans in places such as Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore. Anticipating the likelihood of street demonstrations here, Emanuel and McCarthy worked to minimize the public fallout in a city with a long, sordid history of police misconduct.
As the details of the McDonald shooting continued to unfold, McCarthy also moved to address another controversial shooting involving one of his officers. Late Monday, the city's top cop announced that after two months of deliberation, he had decided to move to fire Chicago police Detective Dante Servin for his involvement in the 2012 fatal shooting of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd, in an off-duty incident behind Servin's West Side home.
Emanuel and McCarthy have sought to cast both incidents as isolated acts by rogue officers in a department filled with police who serve and protect the public in good faith.
"Jason Van Dyke violated both the standards of professionalism that come from being a police officer, but also basic moral standards that bind our community together," Emanuel said at a late afternoon news conference. "Jason Van Dyke will be judged in a court of law. That's exactly how it should be."
But that City Hall narrative comes against a backdrop of decades' worth of police torture and wrongful conviction cases, corruption, and slapdash, ineffectual oversight practices in shootings and other excessive force actions. Time and again, the department has quickly cleared officers of allegations, only to have civil litigation later reveal video and other evidence that painted a much darker picture of police conduct.
Still, in charging Van Dyke, Alvarez said she has never seen anything like the videotaped shooting in her three decades in law enforcement. Calling the video "graphic," "violent" and "chilling," she said it "no doubt will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans. … To watch a 17-year-old young man die in such a violent manner is deeply disturbing."
The graphic nature of the video of McDonald's death was never in dispute. When it was released Tuesday, it showed McDonald, who authorities said had PCP in his system when he died, briskly walking down the middle of Pulaski Road when Van Dyke fired from the teen's left-hand side. The video did not show McDonald lunging toward officers, as a police union spokesman previously has suggested.
Alvarez said several civilians witnessed the shooting. One motorist told authorities he never saw McDonald lunge at any officers or do anything else threatening before he was shot. McDonald also made no threatening motions while on the ground afterward, Alvarez said the motorist told authorities.
"The officer's actions were not justified and were not a proper use of deadly force," Alvarez told reporters.
In court Tuesday, prosecutors said Van Dyke was less than an hour into his overnight shift when a radio call at 9:47 p.m. reported a citizen was detaining McDonald after he had been caught breaking into trucks and stealing radios in a parking lot near 41st Street and Kildare Avenue.
Another unit responded first and said over the radio that McDonald was walking away with a knife in his hand, Assistant State's Attorney William Delaney said. At 9:56 p.m., a beat car reported that McDonald had "popped the tire on their squad car," Delaney said. The dash-cam on a squad car that captured McDonald being shot showed the teen jogging down Pulaski waving a knife in his right hand, Delaney said.
Van Dyke and his partner got out of their marked Chevrolet Tahoe with their guns drawn, and Van Dyke took at least one step toward the teen and opened fire from about 10 feet away, Delaney said. He opened fire less than 30 seconds after arriving, prosecutors said.
"McDonald's arm jerks and his whole body spins around and falls to the ground," Delaney said.
Alvarez also relayed what tens of thousands of Chicagoans would watch for themselves hours later: The video showed McDonald lying on the ground while shots continued to strike his body and the pavement near him, with puffs of debris kicking up and his arms and body jerking as he was hit. Van Dyke fired all of the rounds in his gun and was in the act of reloading when his partner told him to hold his fire, prosecutors said.
The partner then approached McDonald's body and kicked the knife away, they said. According to interviews with other officers at the scene, McDonald never spoke to them or responded to commands to drop the knife, prosecutors said.
Judge Donald Panarese Jr. ordered Van Dyke held without bail until the judge can view the video Monday.
"I believe it's pertinent for a bond hearing," Panarese said of the video. "I'm sorry, but I'm holding you no bail until Monday."
Dressed in a brown sweatshirt and blue jeans, Van Dyke showed no emotion as he was led from the courtroom in custody. His defense attorney said Van Dyke feared for his life the night of the shooting.
Daniel Herbert said people are free to make judgments based on watching the video "from the comfort of their living room on their sofa," but they can't pretend to see what Van Dyke may have seen that night.
"This is a case that can't be tried in the streets, it can't be tried in the media, and it can't be tried on Facebook," Herbert said.
Critics have raised questions about why the investigation took more than a year when the video provides such a stark depiction of what happened. While the mayor and McCarthy said the investigation has been proceeding at a deliberate pace, Alvarez said such investigations are complicated regardless of how straightforward and damaging the video may be.
Alvarez said she had made up her mind weeks ago to file charges against Van Dyke but held off out of cooperation with federal authorities who are conducting an ongoing civil rights investigation.
Visible on the video at the time of the shooting are at least three other Chicago Police Department SUVs in addition to the one shooting the dash-cam footage that the Emanuel administration released Tuesday. Any video that might exist from other police vehicles at the scene was not made public by the mayor's office.
The original Freedom of Information request by freelance journalist Brandon Smith requested all video files "that captured any part of the police response to Laquan McDonald...."
The video that was released was the result of Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama's ruling last week that the Emanuel administration had violated the state's open records law by withholding the dash-cam footage from the freelance journalist.
The Tribune filed its own public records request for the video in April to the Police Department, the city Law Department, and the Independent Police Review Authority. All three agencies denied the request.
The camera footage of the video released Tuesday by City Hall did not have any sound accompanying it. "There was no audio to my knowledge with any of the video that was taken," McCarthy said. "No, it didn't exist."
Asked if that's standard for a police dash-cam, he replied, "There's supposed to be (audio), and it's supposed to happen at a couple different instances. This is one of the things that we are working on."
Absent from remarks given by McCarthy and Emanuel on Tuesday afternoon was any acknowledgment of a systemic problem in the Police Department oversight procedures that the courts have found gives police officers a sense of impunity to break the law and violate citizens' rights.
During the course of his administration, the mayor has echoed the tone of his predecessor, Richard M. Daley, casting police misconduct cases as isolated incidences of lone rogue cops. But public records — especially court records — tell a different story of long-standing systemic problems with police oversight that city officials have been loath to confront to this day. In multiple cases since Emanuel took office, the city has been driven to react to misconduct claims only when litigation revealed the existence of troubling video.
Critics have long said city officials have glossed over systemic corruption in the Police Department.
In 2006, University of Chicago research showed a relatively small group of 662 officers — or about 5 percent of the department at the time — accounts for the lion's share of misconduct complaints. But the extraordinarily low rate at which investigators sustained complaints — less than 1 percent — allowed bad cops to act with virtual impunity.
In 2007, the Tribune published a yearlong investigation into the Police Department's handling of officer-involved shootings. The paper found that police officials rushed to clear cops in shootings, ignoring troubling or contradictory evidence, failing to interview witnesses, delaying blood alcohol testing when officers had been drinking before firing their weapons, and filing spurious charges against the people who had been shot. In the years since, police officials have not instituted significant reforms of the process.
Emanuel has said he inherited a legacy of misconduct problems from the Daley years, but his own administration now has multiple episodes in which the department was slow to act on questionable shootings, including the shootings by Van Dyke, Servin and another officer, Gildardo Sierra.
In a 2012 federal civil trial over the case of an off-duty officer caught on video beating a defenseless female bartender during the Daley administration, the jury found that police officials had tried to cover up the case. The jury delivered a verdict declaring that a systemic "code of silence" existed in the Chicago Police Department to protect rogue officers from facing consequences for their actions.
The Emanuel administration responded to the verdict by trying to make a deal with the bartender to support vacating the verdict in exchange for an immediate payout of her $850,000 jury award without court appeals. At the time, the mayor said the agreement "closes a chapter on something that happened before I was mayor."
The judge in that case overruled the maneuver, saying the city's desire to wipe out the "code of silence" verdict was not in the public's interest.
Late Tuesday night, hundreds of protesters paraded through the Loop, chanting "16 shots" and confronting police.
McCarthy had moved late Monday to address another shooting that previously garnered protest across the city.
For two months, he had weighed whether to move to fire Servin, the detective involved in the 2012 shooting who was acquitted of manslaughter charges. McCarthy, who had previously defended the detective and said he should not have been charged with a crime, insisted Tuesday that his decision to call for Servin to lose his job was not tied to developments in the McDonald case.
"Nonsense," McCarthy said of the suggestion that the timing of his decision was politically motivated. "If you've been at police board meetings, I've been hearing a demand to make a decision. So, here's a case where we're doing what the community wants, I'm making the decision and somebody is going criticize it, saying it's political? C'mon. That's ridiculous."
Videos of police shootings don't always tell the full story, experts warn
by James Queally and Richard Winton
The video, shot from the dashboard camera of a police cruiser, shows a black teenager walking down the middle of a Southwest Chicago street. Two police officers approach the 17-year-old from his left, guns drawn.
The teen stumbles and falls as he is hit by gunfire. But, Cook County prosecutors say, Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke continues shooting even after Laquan McDonald has crumpled to the asphalt.
Van Dyke fired 16 shots in total, investigators said. McDonald died a short time later.
The recording — a key piece of evidence released Tuesday as a first-degree murder charge was filed against Van Dyke — is the latest in a catalog of videos that has put police use-of-force under intense scrutiny across the U.S. In the past 18 months, surveillance feeds and cellphone recordings have led to protests and criminal charges after officers used force against civilians in New York City, Los Angeles, Cleveland and South Carolina, among other places. Many of the protests have focused on the role of race in police use of force, particularly against black men.
The videos are often visceral in nature, showing what many activists consider to be clear-cut misuse of force by police officers. Cook County State's Atty. Anita Alvarez said she "moved up" her decision to charge Van Dyke after a judge ruled last week that the video should be released to the public.
But, even as demonstrators took to Chicago's streets Tuesday night to protest the shooting of McDonald by a white police officer, law enforcement experts around the nation warned that recordings like the one that captured the teen's death can paint an incomplete picture.
"Knowing what happens on video after it happens is totally different than knowing what the cop was thinking and what he will say he was thinking," said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former assistant district attorney in New York City. "The video obviously could be damning in terms of a criminal case, but the ultimate question is, is there malice towards the kid? Is it totally unwarranted under any view of the evidence? The video does not speak for itself."
Recordings of clashes between police and civilians have been especially resonant in Los Angeles in recent months, where video filmed by a bystander of several officers opening fire on a homeless man on skid row earlier this year generated national outrage.
Deciding whether to make official recordings public has also proved a thorny issue for city leaders.
The spread of similar videos has sparked large-scale protests in some cities. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration tried to keep the recording of McDonald's death from becoming public. In Los Angeles, the LAPD generally does not publicly release recordings from cameras mounted in its patrol cars or on officers' uniforms.
Van Dyke was one of several officers responding to reports that McDonald had been spotted breaking into vehicles and stealing radios on Oct. 20, 2014, according to details of the case released in court Tuesday. The first officers at the scene reported that the teenager was armed with a knife and walking away from the area. Cook County prosecutors said, at one point, McDonald waved the knife as he walked past a squad car.
The teenager did not speak to any of the officers or respond to commands to drop the knife. An autopsy showed McDonald had PCP in his system.
Van Dyke was about 10 feet away from McDonald when he started firing and continued shooting for 13 seconds while the teen lay on the ground, prosecutors said. Van Dyke's partner told investigators he had to stop the officer from reloading.
Law enforcement experts who reviewed the recording said that, at first glance, the shooting seemed excessive. Ed Obayashi, an Inyo County sheriff's deputy who also works as an attorney on use-of-force cases, said the fact that Van Dyke's partner did not fire his weapon could prove critical at trial.
"The testimony of that officer is going to be very, very compelling about why he did not perceive a deadly threat," Obayashi said.
Other experts who reviewed the video could not understand how Van Dyke could perceive the teenager as a threat.
"I don't see a justification for deadly force. He is walking away from the officer," said Geoff Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina and an expert on police force.
Sid Heal, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff's commander and force expert, questioned both Van Dyke's decision to fire and the prosecutor's move to charge him with murder.
"It's going to be tough to make a case that he arrived at a scene and decided in only 30 seconds to premeditatedly kill the suspect," Heal said. "If the defense can make any valid case for self-defense, manslaughter seems more appropriate."
The video highlights the way surveillance footage can influence prosecutors. Earlier this year, a cellphone recording showed North Charleston, S.C., police Officer Michael Thomas Slager firing several shots into the back of an unarmed black man, 50-year-old Walter Scott, who was running away from the officer.
Murder charges were filed against Slager on April 7, less than an hour after the city's mayor and police chief received the video, officials said at that time.
While recordings of deadly clashes between police and civilians have gained increased media attention in recent years, the videos are not always enough to gain criminal convictions.
Former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Ivory John Webb Jr. became the target of national outrage in 2006 after a video showed him towering over an off-duty Air Force police officer and shooting him several times. Despite indications that the man he shot appeared to be surrendering, Webb was acquitted of attempted voluntary manslaughter at trial.
A recording of a New York City police officer placing Eric Garner in an apparent chokehold during a fatal 2014 clash also sparked nationwide protests, but a grand jury declined to indict the officer on a manslaughter charge.
The law gives police officers wide latitude in using force when they believe that their lives — or the lives of others — are in danger.
O'Donnell said prosecutors will have to prove that Van Dyke did not believe McDonald posed an immediate threat to his life when he opened fire.
"Why would he choose to just cold-blooded kill someone? Why would he do that?" O'Donnell asked. "You're going to have to answer that question."
Is racism on the rise? More in U.S. say it's a 'big problem,' CNN/KFF poll finds
by Catherine E. Shoichet
Debora Aust sees it in videos of recent police shootings.
Alex Sproul reads about it in his Facebook feed.
Sheryl Sims senses it when she walks down the street.
They are three Americans from three different demographic groups living in three different states. And they believe the same thing: Racism is a big problem.
Their voices are just a few in a country of more than 322 million people. But they are far from alone.
In a new nationwide poll conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly half of Americans -- 49% -- say racism is "a big problem" in society today.
The figure marks a significant shift from four years ago, when over a quarter described racism that way. The percentage is also higher now than it was two decades ago. In 1995, on the heels of the O.J. Simpson trial and just a few years after the Rodney King case surged into the spotlight, 41% of Americans described racism as "a big problem."
Is racism on the rise in the United States? Has our awareness changed? Or is it a problem that's been blown out of proportion?
There's not a one-size-fits-all explanation for the shift. The survey of 1,951 Americans across the country paints a complicated portrait, highlighting some similarities across racial lines and also exposing gaps that seem to be growing.
But this much is clear: Across the board, in every demographic group surveyed, there are increasing percentages of people who say racism is a big problem -- and majorities say that racial tensions are on the rise.
'A different story'
It caught Debora Aust by surprise.
The 48-year-old white woman from Sterling Heights, Michigan, says she didn't expect racism to get worse.
"It always seemed like it was getting better, like our generation was going to be better than previous generations," says Aust, who participated in the CNN/KFF poll. "But the TV started telling us a different story, with all of these shootings by cops."
For Aust, whose father and uncle both work in law enforcement, the news stories she's seen about unarmed African-American men being shot by police have hit home. The officers should be held accountable, she says.
"What's not helping is the police are getting off with a slap on the wrist. ... If it was me, and I was black, and this was happening in my community, I would be furious," she says.
The case of Walter Scott, who was shot in April by an officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, sticks out in her mind. The trial hasn't started yet. The officer's attorney says he plans to plead not guilty, and that race has nothing to do with the case. But Aust has already made up her mind.
"I mean, give me a break, he wouldn't have done that if the man was white, and that's the problem," she says.
It's gotten worse, not better, since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, says Ellis Onic. The 56-year-old engineer in Balch Springs, Texas, who's African-American, points to the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin and this year's Charleston church massacre as examples. Time and time again, Onic says, the justice system has failed.
"The white man has had his way for so long, they don't think of it as racism. They think that's just the way it is. ... We have a long way to go, because the justice system is not right. Justice is corrupt," he says. "That's why she has the blindfold over her eyes and the scale slightly tilted, so you know that it can go either way."
Jim Bruemmer sees things differently.
The white, 83-year-old retired advertising executive in St. Louis, who participated in the CNN/KFF poll, says media coverage alleging racism -- particularly when it comes to law enforcement officers -- has been overblown.
"I am troubled by the bias I see in the media, that seems to spend all its time talking about the bad policemen and the bad white people and ignoring the crime and the disastrous conditions that are occurring in large segments of the black youth," he says.
Bruemmer says he's had to look no further than a suburb of St. Louis to see that firsthand.
"The belief is so universally held among the people I know, that the whole Ferguson thing was a farce," he says, "that 'hands up, don't shoot' was baloney, that the police officer behaved in a very proper manner and saved his own life, possibly."
Gauging changes in racial attitudes is complicated, says Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a professor of sociology at Duke University. Bonilla-Silva has a phrase he uses to describe the situation he sees today: "new racism."
"After the 1960s and early 1970s, somehow we developed the mythology that systemic racism disappeared," he says.
Racism remained, according to Bonilla-Silva, but became more covert.
"The main problem nowadays is not the folks with the hoods, but the folks dressed in suits," he says.
"New racism," he says, has been decades in the making. But something has changed in recent years -- access to cell phones and social media.
Accusations that police use excessive force, particularly against African-Americans, for example, now can get far more attention -- far more quickly -- than ever.
Communities of color across the country can more easily connect, according to Bonilla-Silva, and people are picking up on patterns that scholars have long discussed.
"People are doing Sociology 101. They can connect Walter Scott, the assassinations of black folks in a church, the slamming of a girl in a school," he says. "And then it's across the nation. People are then connecting the dots and saying, 'No more.'"
While the trend of a growing percentage of people viewing racism as a big problem in recent years was true across racial lines in the CNN/KFF poll, the share who see it as a problem is notably higher among blacks and Hispanics.
About two-thirds of blacks (66%) and Hispanics (64%) said racism is a big problem, while just over four in 10 (43%) whites said the same. Hispanics are much more likely now to say racism is a big problem than they were in 1995, when less than half responded that way. Among blacks, the share who said racism was a big problem dropped from 68% in 1995 to 50% in 2011, and now has climbed back to 66%.
Majorities across races said tensions between racial and ethnic groups in the United States have increased in the past 10 years. Roughly a quarter said tensions have stayed the same.
Sometimes the way people view racism can play out like a referee's call in a baseball game, says Glenn Adams, a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas who has studied perceptions of racism.
"Is the guy out or safe? Well, it depends who you're rooting for," he says. "Sometimes it's clear in either direction, but we tend to see it how we want to see it."
It's likely the level of racism in the United States is more or less the same, Adams says.
"What's changed," he says, "is that more people are aware of it."
Knowledge of history, having friends who've experienced racism and personal background are all factors that can contribute to a greater awareness of racism, he says. And now, he says, there's likely another factor at play.
"People are more aware of it because of the videos of police violence and the media attention. Now, the media report on it," Adams says. "Black folks tended to know about this before. Now white folks are starting to know about it more. ... Now, with this kind of evidence, people have to re-evaluate their sense of what is true and what is not true, so it becomes a little bit harder for people to deny."
The same goes for repeated incidents of racism on college campuses, Bonilla-Silva says, like the chant that shuttered a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma and the noose found hanging at Duke this year.
It's impossible to dismiss cases as isolated events, he says, when similar situations at schools and other institutions keep happening again and again.
"The fact that it keeps happening tells you that the problem is not a problem of bad apples," he says, "but perhaps the problem is the apple tree."
'We're all kind of in the same boat'
Because of his complexion, sometimes people think Rick Gonzales is Italian. Sometimes they think he's Mexican or Middle Eastern. The experience, he says, has made him question the meaning of race.
"It's obviously a label. Something tells me that we're all kind of in the same boat, yet we're separated somehow. We're given different names," says Gonzales, a 49-year-old truck driver from San Antonio, who participated in the CNN/KFF poll.
Gonzales' mother is from Mexico and his father is from the United States. He says he feels that for people in power -- most of whom are white -- it's advantageous to pit groups against each other. And to him, it seems like no matter what, darker-skinned people are at a disadvantage. That, he says, is why race -- and racism -- remain big problems.
"The ones that are usually getting the short end of the stick are the so-called minority ... but we're the majority, because we're always the ones who are struggling," he says.
Sheryl Sims, an African-American, 59-year-old retired teacher in Atlanta who participated in the CNN/KFF poll, says that for her, racism is something she senses when she walks down the street in her neighborhood.
"It's just the way people will shun you," she says, "or turn their head when you walk by."
Things were worse 50 or 60 years ago, Alex Sproul says. But now, the 24-year-old, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and participated in the CNN/KFF poll, says he sees racism lurking under the surface.
From wage inequality to accessibility to jobs, Sproul says he feels minorities are still at a disadvantage.
Sproul describes himself as mixed race -- Mexican-American and white. He says several events in recent years have made him feel racial tensions are on the rise.
One of them, he says, was the 2009 shooting death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed African-American man who was fatally shot by a police officer on a Bay Area Rapid Transit platform. Sproul says he first learned about the case when he was scanning his Facebook feed and saw posts from friends.
"You kind of see more of these situations, or extremes," he says. "I don't know if maybe it was going on before and there was no coverage, or if it's happening with greater frequency."
Too much hype?
Bruemmer, the retired advertising executive in St. Louis, says he sees racism as a big problem -- but not for the reason you might think.
Too often, he says, leaders play the race card rather than addressing what he sees as the real issue behind many of the problems popping up in society today: broken families, particularly in the black community.
"The massive problem that I see is that our leaders at the highest level ... do not even want to recognize or even acknowledge that this problem exists, and therefore they spend huge amounts of time demonizing the police force, throwing gasoline and making the problems much worse," he says.
Racism is inevitable in any society, he says. But now, he fears that because of bad leadership, tensions are on the rise among some groups in the United States.
"I think the racism and the hatred of the white race has grown to the point where it's worse than in the other direction. ... I think the anger and the racism is much worse from black to white than white to black," he says.
Searching for common ground
It's hard to draw a clear conclusion when the reasons behind respondents' answers to a survey question can vary so widely, says Mark Naison , a professor of history and African-American studies at Fordham University.
"People may agree that racism is worse," he says, "and disagree profoundly on who the targets and victims are."
"Simmering rage," he says, has been fueled by backlash after Obama's election, the economic struggles of lower- and middle-income whites and demographic shifts across the country.
"Latent racism is becoming more open, because a lot of people are feeling threatened," he says.
But Naison says he's also noticed a significant change in his classes.
"People are able to empathize, communicate and talk honestly across racial lines much better than they did five years ago, and certainly 10 years ago and 20 years ago," he says.
Why? Naison says the changing world students are living in, full of far more multiracial families and friendships, has played a big role. A video of a police beating, he says, resonates for people now because they're not looking at those involved as strangers.
"It's not just that guy over there," he says. "You could be beating my cousin or my boyfriend."
The mix of "simmering rage" and growing empathy is a complicated equation, he says, that adds up to more people talking about race -- and racism.
And it's a conversation, according to Naison, that isn't going away any time soon. If people from different backgrounds can open up about their concerns and find common ground, it could be a good thing, Naison says, like a therapy session on a national scale.
"That conversation is difficult," he says. "But our history is difficult. Our present is difficult. We need to talk about it."
Jersey City public safety director says community must work with police to quell violence
by Michaelangelo Conte
Up to 40 people are responsible for the recent eruption of gun violence in New Jersey's second largest city, and they remain free in part because residents in the South and West districts do not provide information to police, the city's public safety director told The Jersey Journal.
"In the African-American community in the United States there is a troubled relationship with the police," James Shea said in an interview last week. "It is a community not always well served by the criminal justice system and, understandably, there is a residue of mistrust that leads to a reluctance to cooperate."
Since Oct. 7, there have been nine homicides in Jersey City, including seven shooting deaths, and a number of nonfatal shootings. In fact, five people have been shot dead in the city's West and South districts since Nov. 12, including Tyreek McCord, who was killed outside of an IHOP on Route 440 early Saturday morning, and Markice Hatten, who was gunned down in the area of Neptune Avenue and Old Bergen Road at around 11:45 a.m. on Monday.
In total, Jersey City has had 21 homicides this year, 15 of which have been shootings.
When called seeking comment from Mayor Steve Fulop, Jersey City spokesman Ryan Jacobs said Shea spoke on behalf of the Fulop administration.
The public safety director, who previously served as deputy chief of the New York Police Department, said many arrests are based on an officer identifying a suspect on security video. While that is good police work, sometimes it's not enough, he said.
"In this day and age, simple testimony of a police officer is not given the same weight as that of an independent witness," Shea said. He also said police often waste the critical first two hours after a shooting looking for the crime scene because the victims and their friends lie about where it happened.
"At some point the community is going to have to make a decision," Shea said. "When I say there is a reluctance to cooperate, I am not condoning it. It's a good community, but we cannot do this ourselves. We have knocked the homicide rate down to historic lows, and we cannot go further without help from the community."
But Jersey City NAACP President Bill Braker doesn't see it that way.
"I know, as a former police lieutenant who lives in the neighborhood, most people respect and want to work with the police because they care about crime in their neighborhood," Braker said. "We at the NAACP encourage people to respect and cooperate with the police, and the people I come in touch with, they respect and want to cooperate with the police in any way they can."
The public safety director said shooters and victims tend to be 19- to 23-year-old men with previous gun, drug or violence related arrests. One recent victim of a nonfatal shooting had seven prior convictions, including weapons and drug offenses.
Shea said the gun violence is being carried out by about 35 to 40 people who remain free because the community in the South and West districts rarely provides information to police. He said investigators have found "zero" witnesses to this year's street killings.
Although the police department holds numerous meetings with community groups, Shea said: "We feel that we have to fix that relationship, and the way we are doing that is providing the resources to the neighborhoods they deserve. Resources are always limited, and no one ever says there are enough cops on their corner."
Putting more cops on foot patrols may help with community relations and provide a visible police presence, but it is just one tool in effecting arrests and not always the strongest tool, Shea added.
However, Braker disagreed once again. "I think a potential answer to the recent spike in crime is higher visibility of police walking the beat on MLK (Drive) and Ocean Avenue in a consistent way and acting truly as community-based police."
Pamela Johnson, the founder of the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement — a grassroots group seeking to reduce violence in the city and minimize its impact on young men and women — says the underlying causes of street violence need to be addressed.
"Instead of the usual reactionary approach to the violence where we blame the community for not coming forth with information, rely on the police work of the JCPD or trust the efforts of the Prosecutor's Office, what about a proactive technique," Johnson said in an email to The Jersey Journal. "We need programs in place for prevention measures, recreation for young men ages 18-25, re-entry that actually works, a coalition of organizations, agencies and local government to address safety."
Johnson added that there needs to be an increased focus on the individuals who have been disenfranchised and disengaged from their family and community.
Shea said police were able to quell a spike in gun violence earlier this year in the West and South districts by putting additional resources and personnel into those areas, known as "hot spots," and added more foot patrols.
But Shea said the criminals have adapted, and police will too.
"They shifted, and we are shifting," Shea said. "We are redeploying resources and personnel to where they will be most effective ... We have a small minority of people in Jersey City who think it's OK to harm a human being. We are down to that hardcore number of people who seem to insist on shooting each other."
Shea said traditional organized gangs are not particularly entrenched in the city where associations of young men who commit crimes tend to be based on geographic areas and have little structure or hierarchy. Most times "young men in the West and South of the city are shooting themselves for little or no reason ... Sometimes it's tit for tat," he said.
But a high-ranking law enforcement official said the recent spike in shootings and homicides is due to the breaking of a truce made between groups earlier this year.
While Shea denied that being true, the official also said that not calling the groups "gangs" is a mistake and represents an unwillingness to address the actual problem.
"Despite popular belief, there hasn't been a good deal of viable resources in the South and West districts of Jersey City. Just look around. A blind man can see that the South and West of the city is a war zone which stems from the neglect of a group of people who have been deemed disposable," Johnson said.
Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez, who said her office is working closely with the Jersey City Police Department, echoed Shea's sentiments on the importance of having a community that works with law enforcement.
"There is a small number of individuals that are responsible for much of this violence. Our office has redeployed a significant amount of personnel to focus solely on this," she said in a statement. "Most importantly, though, we need the public's help with tips and information to effectively combat this."
Shea added that social media, including Facebook, has been a forum where insults escalate and sometimes trigger violence and shootings. He also noted that the number of homicides in Jersey City in the past few years has been considerably lower than in some previous years, although the number remains too high.
During the period of Jan. 1, 2013, to Nov. 15, 2013, there were 83 shootings with 97 victims. During the same time span in 2014, there were 72 shootings with 81 victims, while there have been 75 shootings with 90 victims this year, at the time of Monday's homicide.
"Trust doesn't always come easy between neighborhoods and our police department, but if we want to stop violence, trust is something we will have to build," Jersey City Councilwoman at Large Joyce Watterman wrote in an op-ed on page 2 of today's The Jersey Journal.
"Their reasons for staying silent, I know, are different. Some are afraid. Others do not trust the police," she added. "I understand those feelings. I do. But, if we want to see safer streets — neighborhoods where people are not being shot and killed — then this must change.
Anyone with information on a homicide may contact the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office at 201-915-1345. All calls will be kept confidential.
5 people shot near Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, cops searching for 3 white male suspects
by Michael E. Miller
Simmering racial tensions boiled over yet again on Monday when a small group of white men allegedly shot five people who had been protesting the recent police killing of an African American man in Minneapolis.
The shooting occurred at around 10:41 p.m. Monday night just one block from Minneapolis Police Department's 4th Precinct, where protesters have held daily demonstrations since the fatal Nov. 15 police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.
Police announced on Twitter early Tuesday morning that five people had suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, and that officers were searching for three white suspects who had fled the scene.
A police spokesman confirmed to The Washington Post that those shot had been protesting outside the police station before the incident.
A video recorded by a journalist at the scene showed people fleeing the shooting, then screaming for an ambulance. A young African American man can be seen writhing in pain with an apparent gunshot wound to the leg while fellow protesters, then police and paramedics, try to help.
Details of the shooting remained murky on Tuesday morning, however.
Oluchi Omeoga, a young protester who has participated in the demonstrations since last Monday, said she witnessed the incident.
Omeoga and her fellow protesters saw three people wearing masks who “weren't supposed to be there,” she told the Associated Press. When the three interlopers left the crowd and began walking down the street, a few protesters followed them. But when the three men reached a corner, they pulled out weapons and fired at the protesters, Omeoga said.
"A group of white supremacists showed up at the protest, as they have done most nights,” Miski Noor, a Black Lives Matter organizer, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Police did not confirm or deny that claim.
According to Noor, the white men “opened fire on about six protesters,” after the protesters attempted to herd the men away from the protest area.
Dana Jaehnert, another demonstrator, told the Star Tribune that one of the three men wore a mask. Jaehnert said she heard four gunshots ring out.
Jie Wronski-Riley, a student at the University of Minnesota, told the Star Tribune that the shooting occurred as protesters tried to move the counter-demonstrators, who had been taunting protesters, away from the protesters' camp in front of the police station. Suddenly, Wronski-Riley heard what sounded like firecrackers.
" Surely they're not shooting human beings,” he thought to himself before looking down and realizing that two black men on either side of him had been hit, he told the Star Tribune, adding that the incident was “really chaotic, really fast.”
Protesters have been camping out in front of the 4th Precinct since Nov. 15, when two MPD officers were involved in the contentious killing of Jamar Clark.
Authorities say officers were responding to a call for help from paramedics, who said Clark was interrupting their attempts to help an assault victim. Clark, who was unarmed, was also a suspect in the assault, police say.
“At some point during an altercation that ensued between the officers and the individual, an officer discharged his weapon, striking the individual,” the state Department of Public Safety said in Nov. 17 statement.
Clark died in a hospital a day after being shot.
Even before his death, however, his shooting was already causing outrage. Several witnesses claimed that Clark was handcuffed at the time of the fatal shooting, although police claimed otherwise. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is now investigating the shooting at the request of MPD.
As protests gained strength last week, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges also asked the Justice Department to open a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting.
Both Black Lives Matter organizers and the Minneapolis NAACP have called on authorities to release video of the shooting.
But Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday that video footage taken from an ambulance at the scene was inconclusive. Dayton, who met with protesters and Clark's family on Saturday, said he has urged federal investigators to release the tapes as soon as possible.
Although largely peaceful, the demonstrations have been disrupted by several other incidents. More than 50 protesters were arrested on Nov. 16 after they shut down a highway. And on Friday, police announced they had arrested two men for spray-painting profanity on the 4th precinct's walls.
After Monday night's shooting, Clark's family thanked protesters for their “incredible support” but said protests outside the police station should stop.
"... In light of tonight's shootings, the family feels out of imminent concern for the safety of the occupiers, we must get the occupation of the 4th precinct ended and onto the next step,” the family said in a statement, according to the AP.
Americans Warned Of Threats To Travel
by Dow Jones Newswires
The State Department issued a world-wide travel alert following a month of deadly terrorist attacks on three continents that have killed hundreds of people, including Americans.
Monday's alert, the first in nearly a year, expires on Feb. 24. It comes during the busiest U.S. travel week of the year, with millions of Americans hitting the roads and airways for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The State Department, in its warning, said terror groups including Islamic State and Boko Haram "continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and nonconventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests."
The State Department often issues travel warnings, but alerts are more uncommon, reserved for short-term events, whereas warnings can be indefinite and resulting from general instability.
Nonetheless, an alert doesn't mean a terror attack is imminent. It more likely reflects recent events -- such as the spate of terror attacks -- and the need for heightened caution.
A top concern for many intelligence officials is the risk posed by Islamic State militants who traveled to fight and train in Syria and Iraq and then returned to their home countries.
"Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis," the alert said.
'Going dark': Weighing the public safety costs of end-to-end encryption
by Francesca Sales
'Going dark' -- or the FBI's inability to access data because of encryption -- could put public safety at risk, intelligence officials say. But tech companies argue that strong encryption is needed to protect corporate and customer data.
Just a few days after the deadly attacks in Paris, Beirut and other cities, CIA director John Brennan grimly painted his view of the government surveillance landscape in the age of global terror.
During a press conference, Brennan referred to new challenges governments face when monitoring potential terrorists. These complications stem from Edward Snowden's NSA disclosures, unease from legislators and the general public over the increasing intrusiveness of government surveillance, and -- as current investigations into the Paris attacks are bringing to light -- end-to-end encryption technology's role in the war on terror.
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is the process of encrypting the data -- including text messages, emails and video chats -- at rest and in transit without third parties being able to access it. The data is decrypted only once it reaches its destination endpoint. The technology has become widespread as an increasing number of U.S. companies produce intellectual property -- such as product designs and concepts -- as opposed to hardware or material goods. The use of E2EE has also played a significant role in how technology companies, like Apple, differentiate themselves with consumers who increasingly seek devices with the latest features to protect against myriad cybersecurity threats and the government's prying eyes.
But the pervasiveness of E2EE technology means that the bad guys also have access to it.
There is no conclusive evidence by French and American officials on the role E2EE played in the recent terrorist attacks, but the ongoing debate between government intelligence agencies and Silicon Valley over the extent of government surveillance and how encryption can hinder those efforts has nevertheless been rekindled.
In the middle of this debate, many companies find themselves between a rock and a hard place: How can they protect their intellectual property and keep customer data private, but at the same time help law enforcement facilitate surveillance and investigations to keep the public safe from cybercrime and terrorist threats?
The answer is certainly not clear-cut. Even before the Paris attacks renewed the encryption debate, a panel of experts at the recent Advanced Cyber Security Center's conference in Boston discussed its merits from a business perspective.
"If [intellectual property] is what you are producing, then you have to protect, and you have to protect everywhere. You have to protect the private cell phone as well as the cell phone that somebody is using for their work," said panelist Susan Landau , professor of cybersecurity policy at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
There's also the importance of customer trust, a necessity for global tech companies like Cisco.
"The ability to differentiate based on trust is really important for us -- trust in the capabilities … of our technology. If we are competing solely on cost, we will often lose because there are competitors that are able to drive down costs in ways that we might not be able to compete with," said panelist Eric Wenger, director of cybersecurity, privacy and global government affairs at Cisco
Encryption and 'going dark'
To Cisco and its counterparts, there's a tremendous economic benefit to the widespread use of encryption and other security technologies, Wenger added.
But end-to-end encryption comes with a price. One phenomenon that has resulted from the widespread use of encryption is what the Federal Bureau of Investigation calls "going dark," or the increasing difficulty of law enforcement to access data and information on companies' networks even when they have the legal authority to do so.
Going dark puts public safety at risk, said James Baker, another panelist and the general counsel to the FBI.
"The expectation is on the FBI … to have a zero failure rate when it comes to terrorism; we should not have a terrorist event in the United States," Baker said. "That's why, when we have dark corners where we can't conduct surveillance -- where the bad guys inhabit -- that's what freaks us out."
One major "dark corner" the FBI has in its sights is the use of E2EE platforms by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), one of the most powerful extremist insurgent groups in the world. ISIL uses public, transparent channels such as social media platforms to communicate with potential recruits, and the group moves communications to encrypted networks once strong contenders have been identified.
"They switch to end-to-end encrypted platforms intentionally because they know the governmental entities can't conduct surveillance on those things. That's where they have their more operational conversations," Baker said.
Split-key and key escrow encryption
Despite the obstacles, Baker said he and his colleagues understand that encryption is necessary because they don't want to increase cybersecurity risk.
To address this dilemma, the National Security Agency (NSA) has proposed two technical solutions: split-key encryption and encryption using "key escrow." In the first technique, also known as "secret sharing," data can only be decrypted by combining several keys after distributing access to more than one key holder, including the FBI (the user is able to access the data independently). In the latter, data can be decrypted with multiple keys, one of which is stored apart from the user, possibly by a government agency.
The proposals, however, have many experts and tech companies doing a double take. One of the issues with split-key and key escrow approaches are the sheer technical complexity of creating such systems while still keeping them secure.
"You can't imagine the UN holding a split key. [And] the complexity of having 165, 200 nations, each with access to keys, is just unimaginable," Landau said, adding that errors and flaws are still found even in existing protocols for establishing keys, such as the Advanced Encryption Standard.
Cisco's Wenger also brought up the complexity problems of architecting a key escrow-based solution, especially because of the many moving pieces it involves.
"If we were able to engineer a mechanism where we could split a key and have a third-party escrow, and the U.S. government can come in and ask for it when they need it, the next thing that would happen is that the Chinese, the Russians, the Indians, the Brazilians -- you name it -- would come and ask for the same solution," he said.
Furthermore, not only would split-key and key escrow encryption make systems more difficult to secure because of this complexity, but implementing these techniques could put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage to their international counterparts, Wenger added.
Once customers find out that their data is accessible either by key escrow or split keys, "it's very likely that consumers could easily shift to other technologies that have the same functionality, or layer on their own open source messages for doing it as well," he said.
In Wenger's opinion, the costs -- compromising the ability to protect intellectual property and to guarantee the privacy of customer data -- in exchange for meeting the demands of the U.S. and other governments and potentially risking the misuse of keys and other system exploits in the process, is a concession he's still hesitant to make.
"Security is an enabler of privacy. … You really can't effectively protect the information that you might want to keep your own unless you have the ability to keep that information secure as well," Wenger said.
Privacy, public safety collide as terror groups collaborate on social media
by Eyragon Eidam
The terror attack in Paris last week sparked a renewed debate over how to intercept terrorist networks communicating via protected social media platforms.
In the aftermath of the coordinated attack that left at least 129 people dead, applications like Telegram are being criticized by some for providing an alleged venue for terrorist collaboration.
While others argue digital backdoors into these networks would not end -- or even stall -- the activities of terror groups, critics say the popular communication networks are an all too valuable tool for groups like the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL).
In a September interview with TechCrunch, Pavel Durov, the creator of Telegram, acknowledged that the radicalized Islamic group was in fact using the service to communicate.
Durov said that although the group is active on the popular open-source messaging service, the free speech rights of all app users took precedent.
" ... I think that privacy ultimately, and the right for privacy, is more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism. And if you look at ISIS, yes, there is a war going on in the Middle East, it's a series of tragic events, but ISIS will always find a way to communicate within themselves and if any means of communication is not secure for them, they'll switch to another one," he told TechCrunch.
He went on to say that he feels Telegram is doing the right thing by protecting the privacy of its users through message encryption and said there were no plans to ban ISIS-related bots on the network.
That tune changed significantly when the company announced the removal of 78 ISIS-related public channels Wednesday and another 168 channels Thursday. Telegram said the channels were distributing "terrorist propaganda."
Some on Twitter immediately accused the social network of monitoring conversations, but Durov clarified that all of the channels that were removed from the Telegram network were public and were not the protected, private channels.
"Our policy is simple: privacy is paramount. Public channels, however, have nothing to do with privacy. ISIS public channels will be blocked," Durov tweeted Thursday.
"To media covering us this week: Telegram channels are public broadcasts. They are the opposite of private chats. Please don't mix the two," he wrote in another tweet.
Just Monday, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director John Brennan alluded to the technological challenges facing intelligence and security agencies, and the need for more cooperation from the private sector when it comes to rooting out terrorist networks online.
During a speech at the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) Global Security Forum earlier this week, Brennan focused many of his remarks on technology.
"And finally, the rapid advance of information technology has given rise to an entirely new and open domain for human interaction and progress: the cyber realm," he said. "As an intelligence officer, much of my job involves dealing with the unintended consequences of the cyber revolution. For as much as it brings the world together, it also serves the purpose of those who wish to do us harm."
The intelligence agency head said the advent and prominence of social media and the "cyber realm" has allowed for small groups and individuals to "inflict damage on a scale previously restricted to nation states."
"As our country deals with this issue and specifically the security and privacy concerns that revolve around information sharing, it is important to note that security and privacy are not mutually exclusive," he said. "The benefits of improved information sharing can be achieved in a manner that protects privacy and civil liberties."
The CIA director said recent unauthorized disclosures had also presented challenges to security and intelligence gathering efforts.
"In the past several years, because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of hand-wringing over the government's role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability to collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging," he said.
Brennan called the recent advancement of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, passed by the U.S. Senate in late October, an important step forward in the efforts.
A year after grand jury announcement, Ferguson sees progress
It's not exactly a return to normal, but it's an improvement
by Jim Suhr and Jim Salter
FERGUSON, Mo. — A year has passed since parts of Ferguson burned in the rage that followed a grand jury's decision not to prosecute the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown. In that time, signs of hope have emerged.
Some of the nearly two dozen businesses destroyed in the Nov. 24, 2014, riots have reopened. Concrete barricades that protected the police station are gone. The majority-black St. Louis suburb once led almost exclusively by whites now has a black city manager, municipal judge and two new African-American council members.
It's not exactly a return to normal, but for many of those who endured last year's unrest, it's an improvement.
"We've got a ways to go," said Ron Johnson, the black Missouri State Highway Patrol captain who led the law enforcement effort in Ferguson. "We didn't get in this place in America overnight, so it's going to take time. So we have to keep trying."
Brown, who was black, was 18 and unarmed when he was shot to death in August 2014 by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson during a confrontation in a street. Brown's death helped spawn the national "Black Lives Matter" movement rebuking police treatment of minorities.
The Justice Department later cleared Wilson, concluding that evidence backed his claim that he shot Brown in self-defense after Brown first tried to grab the officer's gun during a struggle through the window of Wilson's police vehicle, then came toward him threateningly after briefly running away.
On that cold November night, after months of sporadic unrest, St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch called an evening news conference to announce the grand jury's ruling: No indictment.
At that moment, Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, and his stepfather, Louis Head, were sitting atop a car in a sea of people in the middle of the street outside Ferguson police headquarters. As the car speakers blared the announcement, she began to wail and sob.
Head consoled her, then yelled, "Burn this bitch down!" to angry protesters gathered around them.
Chaos followed. Windows were smashed at City Hall. A police car was set on fire. Police responded in armored vehicles, shooting tear gas.
Denise Lieberman, an attorney who is co-chairwoman of a protest group called the Don't Shoot Coalition, said that lost amid the fires and looting was the fact that police were "hyper-militarized" and aggressive against protesters, the majority of whom were behaving themselves.
"People out there trying to peaceably express themselves shouldn't have to live in fear of getting beaten up, assaulted with tanks and tear gas and chemical agents by the very actors who were supposed to be protecting them," she said.
If protesters saw the security presence as over the top, many in Ferguson felt it wasn't enough, citing the lack of Missouri National Guard presence until after the rioting began.
"I was just so frustrated that the city was left unprotected, that we had been promised National Guard protection," Ferguson City Council member Brian Fletcher said. "I felt the governor had failed the city of Ferguson. To this day, I'm very bitter about that."
Over several hours, 80 businesses in and around Ferguson were damaged, and at least 20 were destroyed, many burned to the ground.
Slowly, they're coming back — a Little Caesars pizza restaurant, the Hidden Treasures antique shop and a bakery that is partnering with Starbucks.
City leaders take pride in the fact that Ferguson has had a slight net increase in businesses over the past year.
"That's a testament to the small business owners committed to this community," Mayor James Knowles III said. "They've received a tremendous amount of support from the residents, and they've made that commitment to be here."
The rebuilding began literally before the smoke cleared. Fletcher recalled people coming from throughout the region to help clean up a day after the riots.
At Cathy's Kitchen, a diner near the police station, a patio table was thrown through a front window that night. What followed still has owner Cathy Jenkins in awe: Protesters locked arms in front of the eatery, protecting it from further damage.
"I thought that was great," she said.
Today, a new $5.5 million, 23-unit loft complex is under construction near the police station. Cerner Corp, a medical billing company, is adding 200 jobs in Ferguson. The Urban League is building an employment training center at the site of the QuikTrip that was burned a day after Brown's death.
Meanwhile, the city government has undertaken several changes, including placing caps on revenue from municipal court fines and costs. The police department has embraced a model of community policing that involves getting to know residents and hosting meetings to address problems, rather than simply responding to crimes.
Even Lieberman, a protest leader, said change has been evident. She cautioned that more is needed.
"One thing that's come out of this is that people are talking about race more," Lieberman said. "It was an intense, intense time, but it still is. We're still fighting for the very same kinds of reforms."
Johnson agreed more progress is needed.
"I think we'll know you're in a better place when the words 'both sides' are taken away and we think of ourselves as one," he said.
Police investigate New Orleans gun battle that wounded 17
Police said 10 people were taken to the hospital in ambulances while another six were taken in private vehicles
by Janet McConnaughey
NEW ORLEANS — Authorities are still trying to determine what touched off a shootout between two groups of gunmen that wounded 17 people in a crowded New Orleans park, a police spokesman said Monday.
The mayor called on witnesses to come forward, but by late Monday morning nobody had offered either video of the shootout or descriptions or IDs of the gunmen, officer Frank Robertson said.
None of the injuries is believed to be life-threatening. Robertson did not know how many people were hospitalized or any details such as their ages.
Hundreds of people were gathered Sunday evening at Bunny Friend Playground — most for a block party and some for the filming of a music video — when two groups in the crowd opened fire on each other, police said.
Police were on their way to break up a big crowd there when gunfire erupted at the park in the city's 9th Ward, the police said in a statement.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, speaking at a news conference aired on WWL-TV, called on people who were in the park to come forward with information. Police have also asked people with any video of the shooting to bring it to police.
"At the end of the day, it's really hard to police against a bunch of guys who decide to pull out guns and settle their disputes with 300 people in between them. That's just not something you can tolerate in the city," Landrieu said.
"It's going to require the people who were in this park to basically say they've had enough and they're not going to put themselves in harm's way and give us information so that the police can do their job," the mayor said.
Ten people were taken to the hospital in ambulances, and the others went in private vehicles, police said. Photos of the scene showed emergency workers wheeling some of the wounded on gurneys while other people who appeared to be in pain lay on the ground.
Joseph Jordan and a friend were in a house across the street from the park when they heard gunshots. Later someone called Jordan's friend and told her that her niece had been shot. The two rushed to the hospital to check on the 14-year-old, who the friend said had been shot three times in the leg.
Outside University Medical Center, Kawandra Hayney said she had been driving two or three blocks from the playground with her daughter when people ran by shooting. Her 14-year-old daughter was hit once in the knee and five times in her backside. Hayney pulled her daughter out of the truck and under it to hide, then moved to a nearby ditch.
"I saw the police coming, and I ran over to them," she said. She said she later counted seven bullet holes in her truck.
Large stadium lights lit up the park Sunday as police continued to analyze the crime scene. Witnesses told police the gunmen ran off after the shooting was over.
As many as 500 people could have been in the park when the shooting happened, Police Chief Michael Harrison said.
Police spokesman Tyler Gamble said Sunday that neither the block party nor the music video crew had a permit to use the playground named after Henry "Bunny" Friend, who was 18 when he died in 1924.
Harrison told WDSU-TV that the shooting might have been gang-related. Police had been helping with a parade that had been taking place about a block away from the park and were able to quickly get to the park, Harrison told the TV station.
Landrieu said in September that statistics show overall violent crime is down in New Orleans over the past 20 years. He conceded, however, that many in the city don't feel safe.
While reduced numbers of simple robberies and assaults were big enough to create a 4 percent drop in overall violent crime, the numbers of murders, rapes and armed robberies all were up from the previous year.
Political opponents have criticized Landrieu for allowing the police force to fall below 1,200 officers when officials say it should be around 1,600. That's the result, he has said, of hard choices made after he inherited an $80 million budget deficit in 2010.
Manhunt underway after New Orleans gunmen shoot 16
by Greg Toppo
A manhunt was underway across New Orleans on Monday after 16 people were shot during a gunfight at an impromptu music video recording at in a city park, authorities said.
The victims were all in stable condition.
The shooting broke out late Sunday at Bunny Friend Park in the Upper Ninth Ward where about 500 people were gathered for the video shoot, officials said.
"At the end of the day it's really hard to police against a bunch of guys who decide to pull out guns and settle disputes with 300 people between them," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a news conference.
The shooting followed a second-line parade by the Nine Times Social & Pleasure Club that had taken place a block or two from the shooting scene, Landrieu said.
Witnesses told WWL-TV that at least two gunmen fired into the crowd.
Detectives are combing the neighborhood for surveillance video of the incident or suspects.
City police officers had been monitoring the parade, but witnesses said they were beginning to disperse as the after-party kept going, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported. As soon as gunshots were heard, witnesses said, officers were on the scene immediately.
Police spokesman Tyler Gamble told The Associated Press that police were on their way to break up the crowd when gunfire erupted. He said there were two groups at the park — those who had walked there in the parade and those watching or participating in the video. He said it was being made without a permit.
The shooting's aftermath was "chaotic," The Times-Picayune reported, with several people lying around the park's main building and hats and possessions scattered around the playground. Ppolice chief Michael Harrison said he believed there were several shooters.
Several ambulances were reported at the scene, which was cordoned off by police.
According to FrenchQuarter.com, second line parades are "the descendants of the New Orleans' famous jazz funerals and, apart from a casket, mourners and a cemetery visit, they carry many of the same traditions with them as they march down the streets." There are dozens of second line parades scheduled throughout the year and throughout the city, usually on Sunday afternoons, according to the website. They range in size, level of organization and traditions.
Each parade includes a brass band and street dancing by members wearing "brightly colored suits, sashes, hats and bonnets, parasols and banners," the website said.
Landrieu last January said the number of murders in New Orleans last year reached a 43-year low at 150, the lowest since 1971. City officials said the downward trend represented the third consecutive year in which murders had declined. They said New Orleans in 2014 had its lowest murder rate in over a decade, with 39.6 victims per 100,000 people.
The Times-Picayune reported that as of Sunday the city's 2015 murder rate stood at 138. The latest was the fatal shooting of a 37-year-old man on Nov. 14.
Public Safety faces ISIS threats
by Momachi Pabrai
After recent threats from the Islamic State, NYU Public Safety, NYU Public Affairs and the New York Police Department are taking extra precautions to keep students and New York City residents safe. After the violent attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad, the security of NYU students and faculty residing in the threatened New York area has become a top priority for the university.
In addition to an increased police presence around campus and near Times Square, Public Safety has been tracking NYPD updates from both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Vice President of Public Safety Randy Stephan said in an email to the student body that even though the department has taken numerous steps in the past few days to ensure safety, students should be taking precautions as well.
“We encourage everyone in our community to be aware of your surroundings and to alert public safety or law enforcement if you see any suspicious activity,” Stephan said. “Please monitor local news and follow any city or University advisories.”
Public Safety has shifted its focus to students residing near Times Square after ISIS released its video threat on Wednesday. NYPD's presence has increased in Times Square and Herald Square, because these New York City landmarks have been referenced in the released video.
At a late-night news conference at Times Square on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that residents should not be alarmed by the threat.
“There is no credible and specific threat against New York City,” De Blasio said. “We understand it is the goal of terrorists to intimidate and disrupt our democratic society. We will not submit to their wishes.”
Students studying abroad at NYU Paris expressed concerns for students residing near Times Square, especially in the Affinia Hotel.
However, LS freshman Jordan Veitinger added that Public Safety is doing the best they can in staying accountable for those in NYU Paris. He said he feels students should remain calm during this time and not give into the fears that some radical groups are trying to perpetrate.
“I can't help but feel nervous for New York,” Veitinger said. “But the terrifying attacks going on around the world — we have to live our lives, not our fears.”
Police, community take action as crime rises in LA
Murders are up 12 percent this year and shooting victims have increased 20 percent
by Amanda Lee Myers
LOS ANGELES — Eduardo Rebolledo had just gotten into his pickup truck after work, eager to head home to his two children when a gang dispute erupted 30 yards behind him on a Los Angeles street. The 38-year-old ducked right into the path of a bullet that hit him in the head, killing him instantly.
"He was completely innocent. The guy's never even had a parking ticket," said Detective Dave Peteque with the Los Angeles Police Department. "He's just a working Joe, a family man trying to support his kids."
In a split second, Rebolledo joined the growing list of victims in the nation's second-largest city, where murders are up 12 percent this year and shooting victims have increased 20 percent. The city is also on the cusp of recording its 1,000th shooting victim of the year.
After an especially violent weekend in late September, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck expressed his frustration about the bloodshed, particularly among gangs. "This is not Dodge City," Beck said, referring to 19 shootings in one weekend, 13 of which were gang-related.
The increases come as redevelopment of the city's downtown and nearby neighborhoods has attracted trendy new bars and restaurants, thousands of new residents and megaprojects that include a $1 billion mixed-use hotel tower that will be the tallest in the West.
In response to the rising numbers, the LAPD has deployed hundreds of elite officers to crime hot spots, increased the number of officers walking the streets versus patrolling in cars, and created a community relationship division dedicated to building the public's trust in police officers.
But Beck said his department can't solve the problem alone.
"A lot of it is public will," he said. "A will of everyone in the city of Los Angeles to say, 'Enough is enough.'"
Members of the community say they stepped up their own efforts when the crime numbers started going up.
Rebolledo's death, for instance, inspired a "peace movement" in the neighborhood where he was killed, said Michelle Miranda, founder of Alliance for Community Empowerment, a nonprofit that provides services to disadvantaged young people, including gang intervention.
Young people involved with Miranda's organization decided to hold a peace march on a recent Saturday in response to Rebolledo's death. More than 250 people took to the streets wearing white shirts, carrying signs that included: "We protest our right to live in peace."
"These are young people that know drugs in the community and gang activity, and they're tired of it," Miranda said.
Miranda said the same youths who organized the march are working on more plans to continue the peace movement.
At Good News Baptist Church in South Los Angeles, the Rev. Winford Bell began a program through his nonprofit group to train members of the community how to counsel family and friends of people who've been murdered.
The idea for the so-called "life comforters" is to provide a safe outlet to vent anger and sorrow, and wherever possible, attempt to prevent retaliatory violence common among gangs.
"Don't get me wrong, hardcore gang members are not going to hear me. Them we can't do nothing with," Bell said. "The other ones who aren't so hard, who aren't dedicated to being gang members ... If they come, we can do a lot of work."
Los Angeles is among a number of major cities across the U.S. seeing rises in violent crime this year, including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Cleveland and Houston. Other California cities also have seen increases, including Sacramento, Oakland and Long Beach.
Though the numbers are up, those cities are far safer than they were in the early 1990s during the crack cocaine epidemic. In Los Angeles, for example, murders peaked in 1992 at 1,092 people killed.
So far this year, there have been 251 homicides, compared to 225 during the same time period last year.
Still, the LAPD is taking this year's uptick seriously.
"We're not panicking," said Capt. Jeff Bert, commanding officer of the department's strategic planning group. "But we are in the business of driving down crime so when a crime spike goes up, we're all over it. It is a concern."
It's still too early to pinpoint what's driving the increased violence across the country and in Los Angeles, said Charis Kubrin, a criminologist at the University of California at Irvine who analyzes crime in Southern California.
She said there could be a number of contributing factors, including easier access to guns, the poverty rate, a new state law that reduced penalties for certain crimes, and a growing distrust of police, which can contribute to retaliatory violence.
"If you don't see the police as a viable option when you have a problem, then you handle things on your own," Kubrin said.
The LAPD, all the way to the chief, acknowledges that community trust in police is wavering.
Restoring it will be the No. 1 way to turn the crime numbers around, Bert said.
"We make or break our success based on our relationships, based on people's willingness to talk about to police and based on police's ability to get out of their car and talk to people," Bert said. "We can't arrest our way out of this."
Report: 60 percent of Americans say body cams will improve police-community relations
According to the report, there is some confusion among the public about the technology
by PoliceOne Staff
NEW YORK — A new study that polled Americans on their attitudes toward body cameras and policing found over half of Americans think the technology would help ease tensions surrounding law enforcement and their communities.
The 2015 Policing Perspectives Report, commissioned by Reveal and conducted by research firm YouGov, also found that 61 percent of respondents were unsure whether their local departments had implemented the devices.
According to the report, there is some confusion among the public about the technology. About 16 percent of Americans incorrectly believe the cameras are supposed to record an officer's entire shift and cannot be turned off. 17 percent incorrectly believe agencies across all U.S. cities are already using the cameras.
Another result of the study showed 10 percent of Americans would believe a suspect over an officer if the suspect claimed to have been assaulted by the officer.
The Department of Justice recently awarded over $23 million in grants to police agencies across the country to purchase the technology. Recent high-profile officer-involved shootings resulted in a widespread push by the public for departments to implement the cameras.