TIME Civil Rights

Report: Teenage Inmates at Rikers Island Face Institutionalized Brutality

Barbed wire fences surround a building on Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York on Dec. 24, 2013.
Barbed wire fences surround a building on Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York on Dec. 24, 2013. Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Correctional officers at New York City's Department of Correction use excessive brute force on teenage inmates, many of whom have mental illnesses, according to report

A report released by the federal government on Monday accused the New York City Department of Correction of failing to protect adolescents, citing a two-and-a-half-year Justice Department investigation that revealed correctional officers at three Rikers Island juvenile jails inflicted brutal force on male inmates between 16-18 years old.

The 79-page-report by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, found that between 2011-2013 officers used excessive violence to punish inmates. In October 2012, 44% of the male teenage population had been subjected to brute force at least once. The report also found that correctional officers lacked accountability for their extreme use of force. When investigations were conducted, they were customarily untimely and incomplete. A “powerful code of silence” between staff allowed egregious offenses to go by unpunished, the Justice Department found.

One inmate said that he was heavily beaten by four officers in the hallway for cursing in the middle of a class, according to the report. A teacher told investigators that he could hear the inmate “crying and screaming for his mother” during the altercation, but failed to report the incident to avoid conflict with fellow staff members.

The findings also revealed that the most inexperienced officers were assigned to deal with inmates who had behavioral disorders and mental illnesses. Last year, over half of the 489 teenage inmates reportedly had mental illnesses. Many were sent to solitary confinement as a punitive measure, with inmates being kept by themselves from 23 hours to several months, the New York Times reports.

The report presented to Mayor Bill de Blasio and two other officials concluded, “a culture of excessive force persists, where correction officers physically abuse adolescent inmates with the expectation that they will face little or no consequences for their unlawful conduct.”

Federal attorneys offered a list of corrections to be made at Rikers, including compulsory reporting of use of force and more thorough training for all staff.

Joseph Ponte, New York City’s new correction commissioner, said in a statement that he would work to improve safety for the teenage inmates, adding that he was committed to redrafting the use of force policy to “bring it into the 21st century,” Huffington Post reported.

TIME

Eric Holder: Obama’s Use of Executive Power Has Been Limited

US-JUSTICE-RIGHTS-HOLDER
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at Howard University in Washington on July 15, 2014 Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

Ahead of an expected lawsuit from the House of Representatives, Attorney General Eric Holder defended President Obama’s use of executive power and said it was a fraction of what other Presidents have done. Speaking to TIME on Tuesday, Holder said Obama had used executive orders far less than Teddy Roosevelt, and said that the Justice department had approved all his orders before hand for legality.

“I was looking the other day just at a list of presidents and Teddy Roosevelt issued about 1,000 executive orders,” he said. “So in terms of magnitude this president has not used this authority nearly as much as his critics would say.”

Holder also addressed his ongoing review of administration immigration policies, including consideration of expanding protection from deportation to include not just unaccompanied minors but adult undocumented immigrants as well. Holder also said he believes that westerners traveling to Syria and Iraq, where they can come into contact with skilled bomb-makers from al Qaeda offshoots, represent a grave threat to U.S. national security.

The interview has been condensed and edited for space.

Has there been actual direct contact between western Jihadis and terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq?

The short answer to that question is yes. We are seeing I would say an alarming rise in the number of American and European Union nationals who have been going to Syria to help extremist groups. I think it’s just a matter of time before we put Iraq in that same category. We have opened dozens of investigations into Americans who have been traveling there. At this point we have eight open cases in various stages of people who have traveled to Syria.

I would characterize it as a grave threat to our security. Every morning I start my day going over the threat assessment for the previous 24 hours over at the FBI, and increasingly the topic of individuals traveling from the United States to Syria and Iraq—Iraq is starting to crank up—that has become a real issue. We estimate there are about 7,000 foreign fighters in Syria, from the EU, North Africa, and some from the United States. They go there, they can become radicalized, and they can return home with the intent to commit violence. And they have the know-how to do it on potentially a mass scale.

Is that your greatest worry on the national security front?

Core al Qaeda has really been weakened, there’s no question about that. But these offshoots, even those organizations that have split from al Qaeda, are of great concern and the brew that is potentially in the mix there between these groups, getting together, sharing expertise, whether its Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the expertise they possess with regard to the creation of bombs, marrying them up with other groups. It’s the combination of these offshoots plus these foreign fighters. Those are the things that really give me concern.

How much of your time do you have to spend worrying about, thinking about and addressing the pressure from the Hill to constrain the executive branch?

We’ll have to see. There’s a very tangible thing we’re going to potentially have to deal with, which is the lawsuit that I think the House is going to file at some point. And the Justice department will obviously be involved in that. But in terms of the use of executive action, the president has appropriately used executive authority as other presidents have. He’s used executive action, around 180 times, something like that. I was looking the other day just at a list of presidents and Teddy Roosevelt issued about 1,000 executive orders. So in terms of magnitude this president has not used this authority nearly as much as his critics would say. But when executive action is proposed it is something that is reviewed here by the appropriate components within the Justice department and a legal determination made that the President can act in that way.

Have you reviewed the issue of expanding the president’s powers to grant reprieve from deportation proceedings for a broader number of people, not just children?

I’d say we’re reviewing that. The president has asked me and Secretary Jeh Johnson from Homeland Security to look into a wide range of things. So I’d say that we are reviewing the specific one that you had mentioned, but we are more broadly looking at the whole immigration portfolio.

Do you take a position on the philosophical debate over the purpose of incarceration, whether it is for rehabilitation or for retribution?

The purpose of sentencing, there’s a variety of factors: deterrence, punishment, rehabilitation. That’s all a part of what a good sentence is all about. But when done well it tends to focus on looking at the individual. I was a judge for five years here in Washington, DC, and it’s a combination of art and science.

 

MONEY The Economy

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TIME justice

Dutch Supreme Court Blocks Extradition of Al-Qaeda Suspect to U.S.

NETHERLANDS-PAKISTAN-USA-JUSTICE
The lawyer of Dutch-Pakistani national Sabir Khan, Andre Seebregts (L), arrives in the courtroom of The Hague, on February 12, 2013. Robin Utrecht—AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. wanted to put Sabir Khan on trial in New York for supporting terrorist attacks against Americans in Afghanistan

In a setback for the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement to fight al-Qaeda, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands on Friday blocked the extradition to the U.S. of Sabir Ali Khan, a Dutch-Pakistani man wanted in New York for conspiracy to commit murder and support of al-Qaeda.

The U.S. believes Khan was involved in Taliban and al-Qaeda attacks against Americans in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province in 2010, according to U.S. court documents obtained by TIME. Khan was arrested by Pakistani forces in Sept. 2010, allegedly at the request of the U.S., and held at a secret prison where he says he was tortured.

Khan, whose mother was Dutch, has citizenship in the Netherlands and was eventually released to Dutch authorities and flown to Holland, where he was arrested. His Dutch lawyer argued that the government should determine whether Khan was arrested at the U.S. behest, and whether he would face a threat of further torture if he were extradited.

The Dutch Supreme Court Friday ruled that the extradition could not proceed because the Dutch Government had declined to look into the alleged U.S. role in Khan’s arrest. The Court, which did not address the threat of torture by the U.S., concluded “the Dutch State should have done some research in this matter,” says Dutch Supreme Court Spokeperson Mireille Beentjes. In blocking the extradition, the court stressed “the large interest of combatting torture worldwide,” Beentjes said, quoting from the court’s opinion.

Robert Nardoza, spokesman for the Eastern District of New York, where Khan was indicted on five counts in 2010, said, “We’re going to review the ruling by the Dutch Supreme Court and consider our options.”

Khan, who is in his late 20s, declined to comment when reached by telephone Friday. He remains free and living in the Netherlands. In January, he told TIME that while he suspects he is under constant surveillance, “Officially I have no restrictions on me.”

The case shows how the U.S. must increasingly rely on other states’ legal systems in countering terrorism as Washington attempts to wind down extraordinary powers granted to the president after 9/11. Those states are sometimes more or less aggressive than the U.S. would like, and counterterrorism officials are having to adjust as a result.

 

TIME justice

Insane Clown Posse Appeals Dismissal of Gang Lawsuit

Joseph Bruce, Violent J, Joseph Utsler, Shaggy 2 Dope
Joseph Bruce, aka Violent J, left, and Joseph Utsler, aka Shaggy 2 Dope, members of the Insane Clown Posse, address the media in Detroit, Jan. 8, 2014. The U.S. Justice Department is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Insane Clown Posse, which objects to a report that describes its fans as a dangerous gang. Carlos Osorio—AP

ACLU lawsuit says FBI violated band's free speech when it labeled their "Juggalo" fanbase a "hybrid gang"

The music group Insane Clown Posse Tuesday appealed the dismissal of a lawsuit it filed against the Justice Department over a 2011 FBI report that designated the rap duo’s fans, known as “Juggalos,” as a gang.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in January filed a lawsuit on behalf of the group alleging their free speech and due process rights, and those of their fans, were violated when the FBI labeled juggalos a “loosely organized hybrid gang.” ICP and Juggalos say they’ve been unfairly targeted by police because of the report.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland ruled last week that the Justice Department is not responsible for how other groups use their recommendations and that the report “does not recommend any particular course of action for local law enforcement to follow, and instead operates as a descriptive, rather than a prescriptive, assessment of nationwide gang trends.” The ACLU has appealed the decision to dismiss the suit.

In a statement, Tuesday, ICP member known as Violent J, also known as Joseph Bruce, said “This is not the end—we’ll keep fighting to clear the Juggalo family name.”

“Juggalos are not an organized fan club,” the ACLU says in its statement, “but a group of people who bond over the music and a philosophy of life, much like “Deadheads” bonded around the Grateful Dead.”

Juggalos, according to the FBI report, have been responsible for assaults and vandalism and a “small number” for more serious crimes. They were not included in the FBI’s most recent report.

TIME Congress

Rubio Says Cuban Intelligence Capability in U.S. ‘Grossly Underestimated’

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority event in Washington on June 19, 2014.
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority event in Washington on June 19, 2014. Molly Riley—AP

"The Cuban government punches well above their weight"

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Tuesday that the Cuban intelligence presence in Washington and the United States is “grossly underestimated.”

“I think Cuban intelligence is much more active in this country than people believe,” Rubio said in response to questions about New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez’s claim that he was the target of a Cuban intelligence smear scheme. “It is in fact, one of the three or four most active intelligence agencies operating in the United States today.”

“This is an ongoing challenge for all administrations,” added Rubio, a Florida native of Cuban descent who sits on both the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees. “It’s an espionage issue. When it comes to intelligence gathering and the ability to carry out intelligence operations, the Cuban government punches well above their weight.”

The Washington Post reported Monday night that Menendez has asked the Justice Department to seek evidence obtained by U.S. intelligence agents that the Cuban government engaged in a smear campaign that left him tangling with allegations he participated in pool parties with underage prostitutes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. Menendez has been buffeted by a federal probe into whether he used his position to benefit the host of that trip.

Shortly before Menendez’s reelection in 2012, the conservative website The Daily Caller published a story quoting two Dominican women who said the Senator had paid them for sex. The women later recanted their accounts, saying they were paid to make them up, and the FBI’s investigation did not confirm the prostitution claims. Menendez, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is fiercely in favor of the U.S. embargo of Cuba, and he told CNN on Tuesday he “wouldn’t be surprised” that the Castro regime “would do anything it can to stop me.”

Rubio said Tuesday that he has no idea if he has been targeted by Cuban intelligence officials.

“Not that I know,” said Rubio. “But who knows? I think Cuban intelligence presence both in Washington and the U.S. is grossly underestimated.”

TIME National Security

Memo Justifying Drone Strikes on Americans to Be Released

A demonstrator holds up a sign protesting the Obama administration's use of drones during May Day demonstrations in New York
A demonstrator holds up a sign protesting the Obama administration's use of drones, in New York, May 1, 2014. Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Reports say the Obama Administration will bow to pressure and release a secret document justifying hits on Americans, including Yemen-based al-Qaeda foreign-ops chief Anwar al-Awlaki

Correction appended, May 22, 2014

The Justice Department will release a classified 2011 memo that provided legal justification for the killing of American terrorist suspects overseas, according to unnamed U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Post and the Associated Press.

The Obama Administration has been under pressure from both Republicans and Democrats to release the document. The Washington Post reported that a group of Senators said on Tuesday it would fight President Obama’s nomination to a federal-appeals-court judgeship of David J. Barron, one of the memo’s authors, unless the document was released. Barron is a Harvard professor and former Justice Department official.

Drones have killed four U.S. citizens, including Yemen-based Anwar al-Awlaki, described as the foreign-operations chief for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Awlaki’s teenage son, also American, was killed in a separate strike.

(MORE: Inside the Obama Administration’s Fight Over the Drone Memo)

Reporters for New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the memo, which was rejected by a federal court. On April 21, an appeals court overturned that decision. The Administration had until June 5 to object but instead it has reportedly chosen to publicize the memo on the eve of the Senate vote on Barron’s nomination, the Associated Press says.

Lawmakers have apparently been allowed to preview a copy of the memo.

ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer welcomed the release of the document, the Washington Post said. “The public surely has a right to know the breadth of the authority the government is claiming [for a drone strike against Americans] as well as the legal basis for it,” Jaffer said.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated that Anwar al-Awlaki’s son was killed in the same strike as his father. He was killed in a separate attack.

TIME Security

FBI Arrests Over 90 ‘Creepware’ Hackers

US Prosecutor Announces Major Crackdown On Cybercriminal Malware
Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announces a massive law enforcement action targeting the creators of the Blackshades software - a malicious computer software that was openly sold on a website- on May 19, 2014 in New York City. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The snooping software allowed hackers to gain control of others' computers, and was famously used to take nude pictures of a former Miss Teen USA through her webcam

Law enforcement agents have arrested more than 90 hackers accused of infecting more than half-a-million computers worldwide with malicious snooping software, of the type used to surreptitiously snap nude photos of a teenage beauty queen last year.

Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf was one of the more prominent victims of the malware. One California hacker, Jared James Abrahams, admitted using it last year to gain control of Wolf’s computer webcam and take naked photos of her. He later tried to extort more nude photos from Wolf by threatening to expose them online.

The suspects were charged Monday with developing, selling and marketing a remote access tool, or “RAT,” that allowed users to infiltrate computers, view files and steal personal data from unwitting victims. The original creator of the software, who founded an organization called “Blackshades,” was arrested in June 2012, but investigators said an international ring of hackers continued to sell and disseminate the software after his arrest, reaching thousands of people in more than 100 countries.

19 countries participated in the arrests, and more than 300 searches had been conducted in what law enforcers described as one of the largest cybersecurity operations in history.

“As today’s case makes clear,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, “we now live in a world where, for just $40, a cybercriminal halfway across the globe can – with just a click of a mouse – unleash a RAT that can spread a computer plague not only on someone’s property, but also on their privacy and most personal spaces.”

 

TIME Civil Rights

Feds Blast Albuquerque Police For ‘Excessive Force’

Vigil For Veteran Shot Dead by Albuquerque Police
Star Garrett, left, and Shannon Haley, second from left, embrace during the vigil for James Boyd in the foothills near U-Mound in Albuquerque, April 2, 2014. Marla Brose—Albuquerque Journal/ZUMA Press

The scathing report comes weeks after protests against police brutality shook the city. The mayor has already said the police department will implement reforms as a result of the Justice Department probe

A federal investigation into the Albuquerque police department found “a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force” that violated the Fourth Amendment, the Justice Department said Thursday.

The probe, launched in 2012, found that the Albuquerque Police Department too often uses deadly force, applies less lethal force—like Tasers—unnecessarily, and too often uses force against people with mental illness. The report also details problems within the department that include inadequate training and lack of accountability.

The scathing report comes weeks after protests against police brutality shook the city, fueled by outrage over the police shooting of James Boyd, a homeless mentally ill man. Since January 2010, 37 people were shot by police, and 23 were killed.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced last week in anticipation of the report the hiring of a deputy police chief to oversee implementation of the report’s recommendations.

 

 

TIME deals

Critics Call Comcast’s Time Warner Cable Deal ‘Unthinkable’

The Comcast Center, home to Comcast's corporate headquarters, in Philadelphia
The Comcast Center, home to Comcast's corporate headquarters, in Philadelphia. William Thomas Cain—Getty Images

Federal regulators must now determine whether the proposed $45 billion merger would stifle competition or harm the public interest

Comcast’s proposed $45 buyout of Time Warner Cable is “unthinkable,” a coalition of more than 50 public interest groups wrote in a letter to U.S. regulators on Tuesday. The merger, which would combine the two largest cable companies in the country, would harm competition while offering no “tangible benefits” to consumers, according to the groups, which urged regulators to block the deal because it would give Comcast too much market power.

The letter, which was signed by Public Knowledge, Free Press, Consumers Union, the New America Foundation and other prominent consumer advocacy groups was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler 24 hours before a senior Comcast executive is set to testify about the deal before Congress Wednesday.

The Justice Department, along with more than two dozen state attorneys general, is examining the proposed merger to ensure it doesn’t violate antitrust law. The FCC, meanwhile, is charged with ensuring that the deal serves the public interest. Critics say the merger would concentrate too much market power in the hands of a single corporate giant, potentially harming competitors and the broader public interest.

“The Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger would give Comcast unthinkable gatekeeper power over our commercial, social and civic lives,” the groups wrote. “Everyone from the biggest business to the smallest startup, from elected officials to everyday people, would have to cross through Comcast’s gates. Given these clear and present dangers and the complete lack of any tangible benefits, it’s clear that the union of the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 cable companies is not good for competition or in the public interest.”

Comcast says that the deal isn’t anticompetitive because it doesn’t currently compete with Time Warner Cable for customers in any of the same geographic markets. (Over the last few decades, the nation’s largest cable TV companies have divided up the U.S. by city and region so that the major players now dominate their respective areas. For example, Comcast controls Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston, while Time Warner Cable is dominant in New York City, Dallas and Los Angeles. Time Warner Cable was spun off from TIME parent company Time Warner in 2009).

However, critics of the deal warn that the merger could give Comcast unprecedented “monopsony” power — which is one buyer with many sellers, as opposed to “monopoly” power, which is one seller with many buyers — in the market for programming. Such monopsony power could mean downward pressure on prices for consumers, but only if Comcast chose to pass those savings on to them. That seems unlikely. “We’re certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down or even increase less rapidly,” Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen told reporters when the deal was announced.

Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America, wrote in a report about the deal released Tuesday that Comcast could use its new monopsony power to “increase its profits by paying less for the goods and services it buys and charge more or gain market share for its own products by using its buyer power.” Such market power could ultimately harm consumers, according to Gene Kimmelman, president and CEO of Public Knowledge, because it would enable Comcast to “demand less than market prices for programming. Programmers will seek to make up lost revenues by increasing prices to other distributors, harming the ability of smaller distributors to compete and raising prices to consumers.”

(MORE: Comcast Set For Grilling Over Time Warner Cable Deal)

Even still, Cooper says the fact that Comcast and Time Warner Cable don’t currently compete for cable customers illustrates the lack of competition that already exists in the market — even before the proposed merger.

“Far from excusing the merger from antitrust and Communications Act scrutiny,” Cooper wrote, “the fact that Comcast and Time Warner do not compete head-to-head merely reminds us of the sad state of horizontal competition in the video distribution markets that they dominate in their local areas — broadband Internet access and multichannel video.”

The lack of competition created by decades of industry consolidation has created a situation where the dominant companies have little incentive to improve broadband speeds and service. The World Economic Forum recently ranked the United States 35th out of 148 countries in Internet bandwidth. In the U.S., Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the two largest cable providers, ranked 15th and 16th, respectively, in customer satisfaction among 17 television service providers, according to a recent study by Consumer Reports. Meanwhile, the cost of cable subscriptions has significantly outpaced inflation, Consumer Reports found.

“Both Comcast and Time Warner Cable rank very poorly with consumers when it comes to value for the money and have earned low ratings for customer support,” says Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel at Consumers Union. “A merger combining these two huge companies would give Comcast even greater control over the cable and broadband Internet markets, leading to higher prices, fewer choices, and worse customer service for consumers.” She added: “The FCC and Department of Justice should stand with consumers and oppose this merger.”

Federal policymakers at the Justice Department and the FCC are now confronted with a difficult decision: Should the two largest cable companies in the country be allowed to merge, creating a media and communications giant of unprecedented scope and scale? In a context where the U.S. lags behind other industrialized countries in broadband speeds, does the merger benefit consumers? Last year, the Obama administration declared that “the delivery of fast, affordable and reliable broadband service to all corners of the United States must be a national imperative.” Regulators must now decide if Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable advances that agenda.

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