REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: TEXAS ‘SEX OFFENDER’ EXONERATED   Leave a comment

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Another exoneration in Texas. Michael Phillips, a convicted sex offender, was officially exonerated by Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins’ Conviction Integrity Unit, which determined via DNA testing that he was falsely convicted. The state will now pay him handsomely for its mistake. It was a first-of-its-kind exoneration in that Phillips wasn’t clamoring for vindication. As was the case when he accepted a plea deal in 1990, he felt that his race would preclude him from getting a fair shake in the justice system, so he just accepted his plight.

After entering his plea, Phillips, a 57-year-old African-American who grew up in New Orleans, served 12 years in a Texas prison for the rape of a 16-year-old white girl at a Dallas motel where he’d worked as a maintenance man. Confined to a wheelchair due to his battle with sickle cell anemia, Phillips has been out of jail since 2002. He has been living in nursing homes the past few years as his health has spiraled downward. Though he’s been out of prison for 12 years, he considers his life one long sentence, as he was forced to wear the branding of a convicted sex offender. In his first week as a free man, Phillips is overjoyed and struggles to put his emotions into words, instead pointing to the spirituality that helped him cope all these years. “A-W-E doesn’t describe the feeling. I don’t know if they got a word that describes how I feel. To have a leash taken off my neck and off my ankle, I know how my ancestors felt when they got free,” he said.

According to the Dallas Police Department report from September 28, 1990, the victim was awakened by a man wearing a black and white ski mask. While struggling with the man and biting his hand several times, the victim told police, she pulled up her assailant’s mask and recognized him as Phillips, a man she had seen living at the motel. The following month, detectives showed the victim a six-picture lineup, and she again identified Phillips as the man who raped her. (The Dallas Police Department no longer presents photos side by side, because the district attorney’s office says it suggests that the perpetrator must be present and compels the victim to pick one.)

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It didn’t help that Phillips had a record. In an interview with CNN, Phillips acknowledged committing a home burglary when he was 19. “Being young and foolish, there were things you do that were juvenile,” he said. But at 32, he was trying to make an honest living and was shocked to hear that he was being charged with a rape that he hadn’t committed. He feels that the prior burglary conviction and a “broken criminal justice system” were to blame for the bad advice he got next. “The first paid public defender came in there and said, ‘Mr. Phillips, the DA went back and saw that you just got out of prison a couple of years ago, so they want to lock you up for 99 years.’ He thought he was doing me a favor. He said, ‘You could get life, so you are going to take this 99 years.’ “

Eventually, another public defender convinced him to cut a deal and plead guilty in exchange for 12 years behind bars, rather than risk a trial. Fearing that a jury would not side with him after a white girl picked him out of a photo lineup, he took the deal, he said. He recalled distinctly the words of one public defender. “You are a black man. This is a young white girl who has been assaulted. You have an X on your back already. What do you think the chances are if you go before an all-white jury?” the defense lawyer asked. “Aren’t you supposed to get a jury of your peers?” Phillips replied. “Yeah, but it’s not going to happen.” Phillips wonders today how many poor folks or people of color were denied a chance at justice in Dallas.

“(The system) is really broke down so bad. It’s like I’m going to stab you and cut you from the neck down to your navel, and all I do is put a Band-Aid across it and tell you that you are going to be all right,” he said. “That’s how the justice system is, because all of them young black men that are getting arrested, they are doomed once the police slap the handcuffs on them and put them in the back of a police car.” The youngest of nine children, Phillips is close with his family. Two of his older siblings are still alive, and he is tight with his oldest sister’s children, who live in Dallas. After his release from prison, Phillips tried to stay with his sister, but once people in the neighborhood found out his history, they put signs on her door and front yard. “It’s hard to have people look at you sideways and upside-down and cross-eyed and roll their eyes at you,” Phillips said. His niece and nephew, Karen Collins and Keith Wilkerson, concede that they didn’t know for sure he was innocent. Phillips was embarrassed by the past and didn’t bring it up, they said. “He never talked about it, and I can say that it’s not like him to do something like that, but him not talking about it gave me doubt,” Collins said.

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After he got out of prison, they said, Phillips struggled to make ends meet, picking up odd jobs as a handyman to pay rent on small apartments. He was forced to move around a lot, and he always had a hard time finding new places to live. “He just took what life gave him. He was a passive person, not a fighter, which makes it ironic that he was charged with a violent crime,” Collins said. “And the sentence didn’t stop when he was out. It just made it more visible to the outside world because he was a sex offender. “He had to deal with the discrimination of being limited to where he could live and work. Where can you get a job?” the niece said.

Last year, Phillips was booted from a nursing home because the staff found out he carried sex offender status, Wilkerson said. Phillips said he felt helpless: “I didn’t have any say in any of my life. You have that label. You have that sticker on your front and back. Bad enough you have to do 12 years for something you didn’t do. Now you have to do something for the rest of your life. You have to report.” Now exonerated, Phillips says he’s going to focus on dealing with his other sentence: sickle cell anemia. “It’s a war. The older I get, the worse this disease gets. I’m fighting a war with my body,” he said. Even with this battle at hand, his niece and nephew say they are excited to see him take it on without the burden of his conviction. “His entire life has been held down and limited. The sky is the limit now,” Collins said.

Phillips’ case is the 34th exoneration by the Dallas District Attorney’s Office since the 2007 advent of the Conviction Integrity Unit. The unit is a long-term project that screens untested rape kits by reviewing DNA databases that are preserved by the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences. It is essentially using DNA testing to conduct an audit of all convictions in Dallas County for which testing may prove the guilt or innocence of a defendant.

So far, they have tackled only sexual assault convictions from 1990 that meet the following criteria:

• There was biological evidence available that included seminal fluid.

• There was only one rapist (cases with biological samples from more than one person are much harder to work with).

• The attacker’s identity was in dispute at the time of the conviction.

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According to the district attorney, Phillips is the first DNA exoneration in the United States that was identified by a systematic search of old criminal convictions, as opposed to a challenge by a defendant or any other party. “Mr. Phillips is very lucky that we tested rape kits from the year in which the heinous crime took place,” Watkins said in a written statement. “DNA tells the truth, so this was another case of eyewitness misidentification where one individual’s life was wrongfully snatched and a violent criminal was allowed to go free. “We apologize to Michael Phillips for a criminal justice system that failed him.”

The semen found in the rape kit was put into the FBI’s combined DNA Index System. It matched the sample of another man who also lived at the motel where the rape took place, the district attorney’s office said, but that person can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired. Assistant District Attorney Russell Wilson, who heads the Conviction Integrity Unit, had the task of driving out of state to tell the victim Phillips was the not the man who raped her. “She was very distraught and cried quite a bit. She said she couldn’t believe she picked the wrong person out of the photo lineup and felt horrible about that. The victim also said she never got over the sexual assault and had seven dogs because she always feared someone was going to kick down her door like the night of the rape at the motel,” Wilson said. “She broke down again upon learning we cannot prosecute the real perpetrator due to the statute of limitations.”

Phillips does not hold a grudge against the woman who was responsible for his fate. Like him, she was a victim whose life was turned upside-down, he said. “I pray for her, I forgive her, and I bless her.” Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor and editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, says he persuaded Watkins’ office to start this project several years ago and has worked as an adviser on the legal team ever since. A 2012 National Registry of Exonerations study found that among rape exonerations with eyewitness misidentifications, most involved a white victim and African-American assailant. “That’s huge racial disproportion,” Gross said. “In most rapes, the attacker and the victim are of the same race. Rapes with white victims and black rapists are less than 10% of the total. So why do they make up a majority of rape cases in which innocent defendants are exonerated? I think the most powerful reason is the difficulty identifying strangers of a different race.”

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Psychological experiments bear this out, Gross said, “and in the United States, the biggest problem is Caucasians have a much harder time identifying African-Americans than identifying members of our own race.” Gross hopes the successes in Dallas create a road map to reproduce similar results in other jurisdictions, he said. “We should do it, to the extent possible, because there may be a lot of innocent defendants who were convicted of terrible crimes who we could identify but who have just given up or moved on as best they can. Also, this sort of project might teach us lessons about the causes of wrongful convictions that we would never learn from other exonerations,” Gross said.

Phillips is pleased Watkins and his unit are trying to help the many innocent men he met while incarcerated. Watkins and his team say they will continue fighting to free them. “On one hand, this was like finding a needle in a haystack, because Michael Phillips had given up on pressing his claim of innocence, but on the other hand, this was a methodical approach that can be replicated nationwide,” Watkins said. “Untested rape kits should not just sit on a shelf and collect dust. The exoneration continues to expose the past weakness in our criminal justice system.” Last week’s exoneration not only clears Phillips’ name and his credit report, it will also make him a wealthy man. Texas law awards an exoneree $80,000 for each year of wrongful incarceration, so Phillips will get a lump sum of $960,000 and then $80,000 a year for as long as he lives. Texas also offers exonerees state-run health insurance and a free education, if they choose. His family is planning to throw a big party for him this weekend, complete with barbecue, music and lots of joyous embraces. Beyond that, all Phillips knows for sure about the future is that he is going to move out of his nursing home, buy a new vehicle and go to the dentist. “The first thing I am going to do is get a Ford pickup truck and a house. Or I might just hit the road. You got 50 states. I might just hit the road and visit the rest of the country. I dreamed of going to China and walking on the Great Wall of China,” he said.

Phillips has contemplated these possibilities for some time, never thinking that it was possible that his “crazy daydreams” could one day become reality. But before he’s done with his interview, he goes back to his original message. Leaning on an old Dorothy Love Coates gospel tune, he wants to make sure we know what he is really thankful for. “Hang on to your faith. The Father works in his own time, and like the good song says: He may not come when you want to, but He’s always on time.”

–Number of U.S. post-conviction DNA exonerations: 311

–Number of prisoners sentenced to death before DNA proved their innocence: 18

Number of prisoners charged with capital crimes but not sentenced to death: 16

Longest sentence served by a DNA exoneree: 35 years

–Average length of sentence served by DNA exonerees:13.6 years

–Approximate total years served by all DNA exonerees:4,156

–Average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions: 27

–Percentage of prisoners exonerated by DNA testing who are people of color: 70%

–Percentage of DNA exoneration cases where the actual perpetrator has been identified by DNA testing: Almost 50%

–Number of U.S. states (and Washington, D.C.) where exonerations have been won: 36

–Number of DNA exonerees who pleaded guilty to crimes they didn’t commit: 29

–Number of DNA exonerations that involved the Innocence Project: 171

–Year of the first Innocence Project DNA exoneration:1989

 

DMN INVESTIGATION: EBOLA CRISIS…W.H.O. TO ANNOUNCE $100 MILLION EMERGENCY RESPONSE   Leave a comment

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SIERRA LEONE | DMN — The head of the World Health Organization and leaders of West African nations affected by the Ebola outbreak are to announce a joint $100m (£59m; 75m euro) response plan. They will meet in Guinea on Friday to launch the initiative aimed at tackling a virus which has claimed 729 lives. Sierra Leone’s president has declared a public health emergency over the outbreak after 233 people died there. Ebola spreads through human contact with a sufferer’s bodily fluids. Initial flu-like symptoms can lead to external haemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure.

Ebola kills up to 90% of those infected, with patients having a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment. WHO Director General Margaret Chan will meet West African presidents in the Guinean capital Conakry. “The scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the persistent threat it poses, requires WHO and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take the response to a new level, and this will require increased resources, in-country medical expertise, regional preparedness and coordination,” she said in a statement released on the WHO website on Thursday. “The countries have identified what they need, and WHO is reaching out to the international community to drive the response plan forward.”

Key elements of the WHO’s new plan are:

  • Stopping transmission in the affected countries through “scaling up effective, evidence-based outbreak control measures”

  • Preventing the spread of Ebola to “the neighbouring at-risk countries through strengthening epidemic preparedness and response measures”

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The WHO says that the scale of the ongoing outbreak is “unprecedented”, with about 1,323 confirmed and suspected cases reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since March 2014. It says that improving prevention, detecting and reporting suspected cases, referring people infected with the disease for medical care, as well as psychosocial support, are of paramount importance in battling the illness. The WHO is also deploying two survivors of the outbreak in Guinea as informal Ebola ambassadors, working with community groups to show that the disease can be prevented if people take recommended precautions. The US health authorities have warned against travelling to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as they strive to tackle the Ebola outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “recommends against non-essential travel [to these countries],” director Tom Frieden said. The US sending is sending 50 extra specialists to affected areas. An American doctor with Ebola in Liberia has taken a “slight turn for the worse”, the Samaritan’s Purse aid agency said on Thursday. Kent Brantly and another American worker, Nancy Writebol, “are in stable but grave condition”, the agency said in a statement. The statement said that Dr Brantly had been offered experimental serum – using blood form a child whose life he saved – but he had insisted that Ms Writebol should receive it instead.

In other developments:

  • President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia – one of the worst hit countries – told the BBC the Ebola outbreak was catastrophic, and more help was needed to contain its spread

  • Seychelles have cancelled Saturday’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone because of fears over the Ebola virus

  • Nigeria has ordered the temperature screening of passengers arriving from places at risk from Ebola while simultaneously suspending pan-African airline Asky for bringing the first Ebola case to Lagos

In London, the ActionAid charity said that the battle against Ebola was being hampered because of the spiralling price of hand sanitisers. A spokesman said that the cost of some hygiene products had gone up sevenfold, making them too expensive for many people in the region. Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma announced earlier that the epicentres of the outbreak in the east would be quarantined and he asked the security forces to enforce the measures.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

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  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage

  • Fatality rate can reach 90%

  • Incubation period is two to 21 days

  • There is no vaccine or cure

  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhea and vomiting can help recovery

  • Fruit bats are considered to be virus’ natural host

 

Ebola in west Africa: the outbreak country by country

Guinea: 427 cases, 319 deaths

The first recorded case in the current outbreak of the Ebola virus was in February this year in Guinea. On 25 March, the Ministry of Health of Guinea reported that southeastern districts were affected with an outbreak of “Ebola hemorrhagic fever”. In late May the disease had spread to Guinea’s capital Conakry, a city with around two million inhabitants. The lack of water and sanitation in the city made it very hard to contain the spread of the disease. The latest World Health Organisation update confirmed 311 cases with 208 dead in the country. There are another 99 probably cases that all resulted in death and 17 more suspected cases, 12 of them deaths.

Liberia: 249 cases, 129 deaths

Ebola was reported in the Lofa and Nimba counties of Liberia in late March and by mid-April possible cases had been recorded in Margibi and Montserrado County. In the latest WHO update, 84 were confirmed infected and of those 60 had died. A further 165 probable or suspected cases were reported with 69 of those deaths. Liberian doctor, Samuel Brisbane, who had been treating people with the disease, was confirmed to have died from ebola on 27 July. Two US aid workers for the christian humanitarian aid group Samaritan’s Purse were also reported to be infected.

Sierra Leone: 525 cases, 224 deaths

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Sheik Umar Khan. Photograph: Reuters

The first cases in Sierra Leone were reported on 25 May in Kailahun District. The outbreak spread rapidly and by 17 July the number of suspected cases reached 442, overtaking the number in Guinea and Liberia. The first case in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown was recorded in late July and the current WHO estimates are that of 525 confirmed, probable or suspected cases, 224 people have died. On 29 July the leading Ebola doctor Sheik Umar Khan also died of the disease.

Nigeria: one case, one death

On 20 July, Liberian civil servant Patrick Sawyer arrived in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, by air and was hospitalized before dying of Ebola. There are fears that the disease might have spread to Togo, where his flight stopped over.

CDC: EBOLA ‘NOT’ SIGNIFICANT THREAT TO UNITED STATES

The deadly outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa is unlikely to spread outside of that region and into the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday (July 28). “No Ebola cases have been reported in the United States and the likelihood of this outbreak spreading outside of West Africa is very low,” CDC spokesperson Stephan Monroe, Ph.D., the deputy director at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said in a teleconference. “I want to underscore that Ebola poses little risk to the U.S. general population.”

While the virus has little chance of spreading to the U.S., the CDC has deployed 12 staff members to the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help contain the outbreak that has infected 1,201 people and killed 672 people so far (making it the largest Ebola outbreak in history). These CDC members will not directly interact with any infected patients, but will manage databases and train teams to track down those who may have been exposed to symptomatic patients. The CDC expects to cycle in new staffers every 30 days until the virus is stopped. Along with this system, the CDC has issued a series of alerts to health workers and travel warnings to civilian travelers.

There still is a chance that the Ebola virus can spread to another continent — particularly to Paris, France, which is the destination of about 10 percent of the flights leaving Conakry, Guinea, reports NPR. To combat potential spread of Ebola, countries like Nigeria have begun screening passengers for symptoms if they fly into Lagos on international flights. Lagos, the most populous city in Nigeria, is the site of the country’s first recorded Ebola case. The screenings “might involve temperature checks, it might involve people filling out questionnaires regarding symptoms and exposure. It might involve certain border crossings being closed to assure that people are moving between countries through patrols or health screening ports,” said Dr. Martin Cetron, of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. “There’s a whole variety, and I don’t know exactly what each of the countries in the area are contemplating or currently engaging in.”

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The Liberian government announced Monday that it was taking steps to stop most border crossings in order to contain the spread of the disease — an uncommon move, according to Cetron. But even if an infected person were to slip through the cracks and leave an outbreak country, the chances of an outbreak in the U.S. or Europe are very slim, according to infectious diseases expert Kathryn Jacobsen, an associate professor of epidemiology at George Mason University. “Here in the United States, first responders and hospital staff all have access to gloves and other personal protective equipment, like gowns and face masks, that they can use to protect themselves from bloodborne infections,” Jacobsen wrote in an email to HuffPost. “Most hospitals in the United States have special isolation units where patients with diseases like Ebola can be kept safely away from other patients, visitors, and staff.”

In contrast, said Jacobsen, the West African countries where the Ebola virus has spread don’t have the supplies or facilities needed for halting the disease. Because of this, many of the health workers, including two Americans working in Liberia, have contracted the virus. The infected health workers’ hygiene and care practices are unknown at this time, said the CDC, except that they were trained by Doctors Without Borders, an organization well-equipped to operate in places with substandard health care infrastructure. Family members who had been living with one of the infected health workers in Liberia returned to the U.S. before the health worker began exhibiting symptoms. Still, out of an abundance of caution, they are currently under a 21-day fever watch, but are not under quarantine at this time, according to the CDC.

There are several strains of the Ebola virus, but the one that is currently circulating in West Africa is the Zaire strain of the virus — the most deadly strain. Beginning symptoms can include fever, head and muscle aches, diarrhea and vomiting — in other words, symptoms that are similar to many more common infections like the flu. But Ebola virus disease can also cause a rash, red eyes, and bleeding from the eyes, ears, mouth, nose and rectum in some patients. The virus can be passed via blood and other bodily fluids like sweat and urine, as well as objects like syringes that can be contaminated by an infected person. However, only a person exhibiting symptoms can pass on the virus to others.

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ATLANTA’S EMORY HOSPITAL TO TREAT EBOLA PATIENT   Leave a comment

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ATLANTA, Georgia | DMN — Emory University Hospital is expected to receive a patient infected with the deadly Ebola virus within the next several days, the university announced Thursday. It’s unclear when exactly the patient will arrive, according to a statement from Emory. The hospital has a specially built isolation unit to treat patients exposed to certain serious infectious diseases. Set up in collaboration with the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the unit is physically separate from other patient areas and is one of only four such facilities in the country.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the Ebola death toll passed 700 in West Africa as security forces went house-to-house in Sierra Leone’s capital looking for patients and others exposed to the disease. The CDC warned against travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The AP also said that almost half of the 57 new deaths reported by the World Health Organization occurred in Liberia, where two Americans, Dr. Kent Brantly of Texas and Nancy Writebol, a North Carolina-based missionary, are also sick with Ebola. It was unknown which of the two was coming to Atlanta. Quoting an unidentified source, CNN reported Thursday evening that a medical charter flight left Cartersville to evacuate the two Americans from Monrovia, Liberia.

Experts on the Ebola virus expressed little concern that the virus would spread to other continents. CDC Director Thomas Frieden said an outbreak in the United States was “not in the cards.” Agence France-Presse interviewed Dr. Peter Piot, a discoverer of the virus and head of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who said there was little risk of pandemic. “Spreading in the population here, I’m not that worried about it,” he told AFP. “I wouldn’t be worried to sit next to someone with Ebola virus on the Tube as long as they don’t vomit on you or something,” he said, referring to London’s underground train system. “This is an infection that requires very close contact.” Ebola is spread through contact with bodily fluids.

REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: C.I.A. ADMITS TO SPYING ON SENATE STAFFERS   Leave a comment

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The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, issued an extraordinary apology to leaders of the US Senate intelligence committee on Thursday, conceding that the agency employees spied on committee staff and reversing months of furious and public denials. Brennan acknowledged that an internal investigation had found agency security personnel transgressed a firewall set up on a CIA network, which allowed Senate committee investigators to review agency documents for their landmark inquiry into CIA torture. Among other things, it was revealed that agency officials conducted keyword searches and email searches on committee staff while they used the network.

The admission brings Brennan’s already rocky tenure at the head of the CIA under renewed question. One senator on the panel said he had lost confidence in the director, although the White House indicated its support for a man who has been one of Barack Obama’s most trusted security aides. CIA spokesman Dean Boyd acknowledged that agency staff had improperly monitored the computers of committee staff members, who were using a network the agency had set up, called RDINet. “Some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between [the committee] and the CIA in 2009 regarding access to the RDINet,” he said. Asked if Brennan had or would offer his resignation, a different CIA spokesman, Ryan Trapani, replied: “No.”

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In March, the committee chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, accused the agency of violating constitutional boundaries by spying on the Senate. Feinstein said the vindication, from CIA inspector general David Buckley, and Brennan’s apology were “positive first steps,” suggesting that the director had further work to do before she would consider the matter closed. She stopped short of calling for Brennan’s resignation. But her committee colleague, Democrat Mark Udall of Colorado, said Brennan should go. “I have no choice but to call for the resignation of CIA director John Brennan,” Udall said after a briefing on the inspector general’s findings. “The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into Senate intelligence committee computers. This grave misconduct is not only illegal, but it violates the US constitution’s requirement of separation of powers. These offenses, along with other errors in judgment by some at the CIA, demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership, and there must be consequences.

Boyd, the CIA spokesman, said Brennan has asked a former committee member, Evan Bayh, a former Indiana Democratic senator, to lead an “accountability board” reviewing Buckley’s report and to advise Brennan on next steps. That advice, Boyd said, “could include potential disciplinary measures and/or steps to address systemic issues.” Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, a longtime observer of the CIA, called its Thursday statement a “conciliatory gesture” to the committee’s leaders. “If Senator Feinstein is satisfied with the apology then the affair is effectively over. If she contends there was a fundamental breach that cannot be corrected with a mere apology then some further action might be needed,” Aftergood said. McClatchy first reported the apology on Thursday.

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Feinstein, in her dramatic speech on the Senate floor in March, said the agency breached the firewall to obstruct the committee’s investigation of the agency’s torture of post-9/11 terrorism detainees, a years-long effort expected to be partially declassified in the coming days or weeks. That investigation was itself prompted by a different coverup: the destruction of videotapes of brutal interrogations by a senior official, Jose Rodriguez. Despite that, the committee has concluded that the torture was an ineffective means of gathering intelligence on al-Qaida – contradicting years of CIA assurances it was crucial – and that the agency lied to its overseers about its value.

Brennan, a confidante of Barack Obama and a senior agency official when the “rendition, detention and interrogation” program was established, immediately denied that his officials had spied on their overseers. “As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the – you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do,” Brennan said on the day of Feinstein’s accusation. “If I did something wrong,” Brennan continued in March, “I will go to the president, and I will explain to him exactly what I did, and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or to go.”

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White House spokesman Josh Earnest credited Brennan with “proactive leadership” for appointing the Bayh-led board, an indication that Obama is not abandoning the man who, until March 2013, was his most senior counterterrorism aide. According to an unclassified summary of the CIA inspector general’s findings released late on Thursday, two agency attorneys and three technical staff members “improperly accessed or caused access” to the firewalled portions of the network that the committee staffers used. None was named. The three technicians “demonstrated a lack of candor about their activities during interviews.” Among other measures, the agency officials “conducted a keyword search of all and and a review of some of the emails” that committee staffers sent over the CIA-established network. Brennan was said not to know of the action, which occurred after he ordered an end to the surreptitious monitoring.

The inspector general additionally found that a CIA claim that the committee staff improperly accessed certain agency data on the network was the result of “inaccurate information.” The Obama administration has walked a delicate line over the torture report. Obama has insisted its prompt and thorough declassification – which has taken nearly four months – is a priority. Yet he appointed the CIA itself as the lead agency to determine what aspects of a report directly implicating CIA activities the public can see. Even before he was sworn in, Obama disappointed civil-liberties supporters by indicating his disinclination to prosecuting agency and ex-Bush administration officials who ordered and implemented the torture program. In 2012, a special prosecutor ended an inquiry without bringing charges. Only one man, a former CIA contractor named David Passaro, has gone to jail in connection to the CIA’s post-9/11 torture.

Brennan’s apology also complicates a developing CIA pushback against a report that agency officials, current and former, consider shoddy. George Tenet, the former director whom Brennan served and who oversaw the brutal practices – where suspected terrorists were subjected to simulated drowning, had guns fired by their heads, were kept in undisclosed prisons for years and were sent to countries like Gadhafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria for even more abusive treatment – is said to be developing a public strategy to attack the committee once the report is released. The agency, consistent with a pattern that has held since 9/11, appears out of danger from criminal liability. Earlier this month, a Justice Department probe, also first reported by McClatchy, declined to pursue an investigation into Feinstein’s now-vindicated charges.

REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: INDIANA MAN ARRESTED AFTER POLICE FIND HUMAN REMAINS BEHIND HOME   Leave a comment

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Police in Shelbyville, Indiana have arrested a suspect they believe may be connected to a 2010 cold case. Police were called to a residence in Shelbyville, 34 miles southwest of Indianapolis on Tuesday afternoon. Police spent more than 12 hours probing and digging into the ground behind the home after receiving a tip. Wednesday afternoon, police confirmed that they found what appeared to be human remains on the property. Scott Schuck, the homeowner, was arrested Wednesday on a preliminary charge of voluntary manslaughter. When Schuck, 46, was interviewed Tuesday, he said this wasn’t the first time that police have searched in and around his home. He said it was the third time in about four years.

Schuck also identified himself as the former boyfriend of Rebecca Cassidy. Cassidy was last seen in the area before she went missing in 2010. “The last I (saw) her, she left the gate of my house. We had a little bit of a confrontation over my moped. That was the last I’ve seen of her. It hasn’t been easy for me,” Schuck said. Schuck said police were probing his back yard, digging and taking buckets full of dirt. Police even brought in a tow truck to remove a shed from the back yard. “They had some tip that … she may be in an adjacent property, so they’ve been searching there, doing whatever they do. So, I’m OK with it. I want them to do whatever they have to do, take their time to do what they need to do,” Schuck said. Officials said police suspected foul play in Cassidy’s disappearance because she never tried to contact her loved ones. Schuck is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

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Indianapolis television station WISH-TV reported that they spoke with Schuck on Tuesday and he said all he’s done is cooperate with police. “She went missing and during that time, I became the number one suspect,” Schuck said. “I have gave them permission; they have been through my house with cadaver dogs about four years ago shortly after she went missing and in my back yard and everything.” Schuck waited outside and watched as his neighbors looked on Tuesday. He said police were wasting their time. “They ain’t going to find nothing. No, they ain’t going to find nothing,” Schuck said.

Friends, family and neighbors of both Schuck and Cassidy stood outside and watched the search for most of the day. Many neighbors say they hope the investigation leads to closure for the community and Cassidy’s family. “It’s been a long time, and we just couldn’t understand why nothing happened before now,” said Carolyn Ivie, a family friend of Rebecca Cassidy.

WRTV and WISH-TV contributed to this report.

 

Posted July 31, 2014 by dmnewsi in Uncategorized

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