“US judge sides with FBI, orders Google to hand over user data”

June 3, 2013

The Washington Post released the following:

By Associated Press, Published: May 31 | Updated: Saturday, June 1

“SAN FRANCISCO — Google must comply with the FBI’s demand for data on certain customers as part of a national security investigation, according to a ruling by a federal judge who earlier this year determined such government requests are unconstitutional.

The decision involves “National Security Letters,” thousands of which are sent yearly by the FBI to banks, telecommunication companies and other businesses. The letters, an outgrowth of the USA Patriot Act passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, are supposed to be used exclusively for national security purposes and are sent without judicial review. Recipients are barred from disclosing anything about them.

In March, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston sided with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a lawsuit brought on behalf of an unidentified telecommunications company, ruling the letters violate free speech rights. She said the government failed to show the letters and the blanket non-disclosure policy “serve the compelling need of national security” and the gag order creates “too large a danger that speech is being unnecessarily restricted.”

She put that ruling on hold while the government appeals to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the latest case, Illston sided with the FBI after Google contested the constitutionality and necessity of the letters but again put her ruling on hold until the 9th Circuit rules. After receiving sworn statements from two top-ranking FBI officials, Illston said she was satisfied that 17 of the 19 letters were issued properly. She wanted more information on two other letters.

It was unclear from the judge’s ruling what type of information the government sought to obtain with the letters. It was also unclear who the government was targeting.

Kurt Opsah, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he was “disappointed that the same judge who declared these letters unconstitutional is now requiring compliance with them.”

Illston’s May 20 order omits any mention of Google or that the proceedings were closed to the public. But the judge said “the petitioner” was involved in a similar case filed on April 22 in New York federal court.

Public records obtained Friday by The Associated Press show that on that same day, the federal government filed a “petition to enforce National Security Letter” against Google after the company declined to cooperate with government demands.

Neither Google nor the FBI would comment.

The letters issued by the FBI can be used to collect unlimited kinds of private information, such as financial and phone records. The FBI sent 16,511 letters requests for information regarding 7,201 people in 2011, the latest data available.

Critics contend the government is overly zealous in using the letters, unnecessarily infringing on privacy rights of American citizens. In 2007, the Justice Department’s inspector general found widespread violations by the FBI, including sending demands without proper authorization. The FBI has since tightened oversight of the system.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


APNewsBreak: Feds consider closing court sites

March 22, 2012

The Associated Press on March 22, 2012 released the following:

“By JEANNIE NUSS
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The federal government is considering closing up to 60 court sites across the country, many located in small, rural communities, as part of an effort to cut costs.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show federal court facilities in 29 states could be on the chopping block. Many of the sites are in remote areas and critics say closing them could make it more difficult for people to get to court proceedings.

Six of the 60 court sites that could be closed are located in Arkansas. Texas and Georgia each have five courts on the list of possible closures. Officials are even considering shuttering the location where judges hold federal court in Alaska’s capital city, Juneau.

There are 674 federal courthouses and facilities around the country, according to David Sellers, a federal courts spokesman. The 60 sites being considered for closure do not have a resident judge. Instead, judges based in larger cities travel to these smaller locations as needed.

In the documents obtained by the AP, the courthouse facilities that could close were ranked based on a variety of categories including cost, usage and location. Of the 10 facilities that seem most likely to be eyed for closure, two are in Arkansas, two are in South Carolina, and the rest are spread out between West Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Virginia, Georgia and Maryland. A facility in Beaufort, S.C., tops the list, followed by the federal court site in Parkersburg, W.V. and one in Harrison, Ark.

“The federal judiciary is going through an aggressive cost containment effort because the money Congress has provided for the operating expenses for the courts has been essentially frozen the last three years,” Sellers said in an email.

He said a significant portion of those funds are used to pay rent for federal court facilities and pointed out that the court system is at the beginning of the process of reviewing which courthouse facilities could close.

A committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making body for the federal courts, in February asked the 13 circuit judicial councils to review the list and recommend whether to keep the courts without resident judges, Sellers said. They’re supposed to get back to the committee by mid-April.

The committee will then review the recommendations and forward its report to the Judicial Conference, which could decide whether to close any of the court sites at its September meeting, Sellers said.

He said it’s too early to speculate how much could be saved or how many jobs could be lost by the possible closures.

“It would depend on what, if any, facilities are closed, when the closure would occur, the rent on the particular facility, staff located at the facility, other needs in the circuit, as well as many other factors that vary from facility to facility,” Sellers said.

The effort to close the sites drew pushback from Judge J. Leon Holmes, the chief federal judge of the Eastern District of Arkansas, who argued that closing court facilities wouldn’t make a significant reduction in the federal budget.

“If the federal courts close their facilities in these places, the money will quit going from one pocket of the federal government to another pocket of the federal government, but little or no savings to the taxpayers will be seen,” Holmes wrote in a letter dated Feb. 23 and sent to local bar associations. “Instead, the taxpayers will be forced to travel longer distances to appear in court as parties, witnesses, or jurors.”

Holmes, who is based in Little Rock, specifically spoke against closing the Batesville, Ark. court facility, which ranked seventh on the possible closure list. He said he wouldn’t argue for building a new court facility there if the court was starting from scratch.

“(B)ut we are not starting from scratch,” he wrote in another letter dated March 14. “The building is there, and it is already paid for.”

Holmes also pointed to the potential hardships that closing a court facility could mean to Batesville, a city of 10,000 located in a remote part of the state.

“Travel through the mountains in this region of Arkansas is exclusively on two-lane highways,” he wrote. “Consequently, the actual driving time from one point to another is much greater than may appear in looking on a map or in calculating distances.”

Batesville is about 70 miles from the nearest federal court site in Jonesboro, but that court site is also on the list. It’s about 100 miles from Batesville to Little Rock, which has the only federal court site in the Eastern District of Arkansas that isn’t on the chopping block.

Holmes also said he was concerned that the possible closures would affect a relatively poor region.

“Many of the persons in the poorer and more remote areas of our state cannot easily travel to Little Rock to attend bankruptcy court or any other proceeding,” Holmes wrote.

The push to close small federal court offices is not new. Sellers said the practice of reviewing court facilities that don’t have a resident judge goes back to 1997.

Still, some judges have expressed concerns about the renewed effort due to budget concerns this year.

“Although we fought this issue successfully a few years ago, the budget pressures are greater now and the drive within the judiciary to contain costs is much stronger,” Holmes wrote in the February letter.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


As Justice Department investigates shooting of Florida teen, doubts arise about federal charges

March 21, 2012

The Washington Post on March 20, 2012 released the following:

“By Sari Horwitz,

The decision by the Justice Department and the FBI to open an investigation into the slaying of an unarmed black teenager in Florida has spurred internal debate at the agency over whether the federal government could bring criminal charges in the case, which has sparked widespread protest.

Lawyers at the department said Tuesday that while the investigation into the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin would go forward, it would be difficult to prosecute the case under federal law. Civil rights law protects against “hate crimes” or actions by police officers, but Martin’s shooting may not have either of those elements, two officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the probe is still under federal review.

Martin was shot and killed Feb. 26 by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, who told police he was acting in self-defense. Zimmerman, 28, had called police from his car after he saw Martin walking in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.

According to the 911 tapes, Zimmerman told the dispatcher, “this guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something . . . they always get away.” The dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow, saying an officer was on the way. Minutes later, Martin was shot in the chest.

No charges have been brought against Zimmerman. Along with the Justice investigation, a local grand jury will consider evidence in the case.

Zimmerman’s family described him as “a Spanish-speaking minority,” and his father released a statement to the Orlando Sentinel saying his son did not target Martin because he was black.

Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said Monday, “I don’t understand why this man has not been arrested . . . let a judge and jury decide if he’s guilty.”

Lawyer Benjamin Crump, who represents Martin’s parents, said at a news conference in Florida on Tuesday that the teenager was on a cellphone with his girlfriend in Miami when he told her he was being followed, according to the Associated Press. She said Martin told her that he was trying to get away.

Crump, who did not release the name of Martin’s girlfriend because of privacy concerns, said she heard a scuffle and an altercation before the call was cut off.

Martin had not been using drugs or alcohol and would have had no reason to confront Zimmerman, Crump said in an interview. He had been watching basketball at his father’s girlfriend’s house when he went to a nearby 7-Eleven store for a snack, Crump said.

A bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea were on his body when police arrived.

Rallies have been held across Florida, with students calling for Zimmerman’s arrest, and the Rev. Al Sharpton will hold a national rally Thursday in Sanford.

Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, met in Washington on Tuesday with Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla). Brown urged Perez to prosecute the case as a hate crime.

Stephen A. Saltzburg, a professor at George Washington University Law School, called the case “a difficult one for the Justice Department.”

“This may be somebody who is racially biased, but from the 911 calls, it looks as though, however misguided this guy was, he thought that Trayvon was involved in some kind of suspicious activity,” Saltzburg said. “Race may play a role, but I just think it will be hard to bring this as a federal hate crime, given the limited reach of federal hate-crimes law.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa issued a statement late Monday saying that in civil rights crimes, the government “must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which law forbids — the highest level of intent in criminal law.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney offered condolences to the Martin family but said the White House was “not going to wade into a local law enforcement matter.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.