Monday, January 22, 2007
Fingerprint matches -- key to fighting international terrorism and keeping criminals off the street -- are no longer foolproof, warns University of California-Davis CrimProf Edward Imwinkelried.
CrimProf Imwinkelried, one of the nation's leading experts on scientific evidence, and co-author Mike Cherry, who designs identification systems, say the reliability of fingerprint identification has declined while the population of the world -- and its fingerprints -- has exploded.
"We can no longer naively assume the reliability of our current fingerprint standards," they write in "How We Can Improve the Reliability of Fingerprint Identification," an article recently published in Judicature. "Given the stakes -- not only justice in a particular case but national security itself -- we must do better."
Imwinkelried, the Edward Barrett Jr. Professor of Law at UC Davis, and Cherry, who is vice chair of the digital technology committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, urge reforms.
The current matching process identifies ridges within a fingerprint and categorizes it into one of three general patterns -- including loops, arches and whorls -- and their subpatterns, and maps predetermined shapes and contours. A fingerprint is said to match when the pattern, subpattern and some of the shapes and contours roughly correspond with each other.
Rest of Press Release. . . [Mark Godsey]
From LATimes.com: Stretched thin from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has sharply reduced its role in the war on drugs, leaving significant gaps in the nation's narcotics interdiction efforts. Since 1989, Congress has directed the Pentagon to be the lead federal agency in detecting and monitoring illegal narcotics shipments headed to the United States by air and sea and in supporting Coast Guard efforts to intercept them. In the early 1990s, at the height of the drug war, U.S. military planes and boats filled the southern skies and waters in search of cocaine-laden vessels coming from Colombia and elsewhere in South America. But since 2002, the military has withdrawn many of those resources, according to more than a dozen current and former counter-narcotics officials, as well as a review of congressional, military and Homeland Security documents.
Internal records show that in the last four years the Pentagon has reduced by more than 62% its surveillance flight-hours over Caribbean and Pacific Ocean routes that are used to smuggle cocaine, marijuana and, increasingly, Colombian-produced heroin. At the same time, the Navy is deploying one-third fewer patrol boats in search of smugglers. The Defense Department also plans to withdraw as many as 10 Black Hawk helicopters that have been used by a multi-agency task force to move quickly to make drug seizures and arrests in the Caribbean, a major hub for drugs heading to the United States. And the military has deactivated many of the high-tech surveillance "aerostats," or radar balloons, that once guarded the entire southern border, saying it lacks the funds to restore and maintain them. Full story here from LATimes. . . [Michele Berry]
Cruisin' town is about to get a little tougher in Binghamton, NY if City Councilman Pat Russo's anti-cruising legislation passes. Three years ago, Russo counted 22 times as the same vehicle passed his Pine Street porch. Prompted by wandering vehicles that he said frequent his downtown neighborhood, Russo has asked the city attorney to draft "anti-cruising" legislation that would prohibit cars from cruising in designated areas at certain times. Under Russo's envisioned law, vehicles that pass by a specific sign more than three times in a three-hour period could be stopped, questioned and fined. "This gives a police officer an opportunity to stop people looking for drugs, looking for prostitutes," Russo said. "I guarantee you'll get 10 guys in one night."
Similar laws have passed legal challenges in other municipalities. In York, Pennsylvania a community of about 40,000 people in southern Pennsylvania, a no-cruising law withstood a legal challenge in the late 1980s, when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city. Longmont, Colorado, a city of about 80,000 people north of Denver, passed an anti-cruising law in the summer of 2006 after persistent problems with gang-related cruising. The Longmont law provides exceptions for emergency, government and livery vehicles, as well as drivers who have "legitimate business activities" or are headed to and from a religious service. Milwaukee, Wisconsin has one too; you can read about it in the "Frequently Forgotten Ordinances" link of the city's webpage.
Binghamton Police Chief Steven Tronovitch mentioned that police officers in his department have the authority to stop vehicles for questioning and ask them what they're doing in the area without an anti-cruising law. "Sometimes that could escalate into something that is probable cause," he said. But he welcomes any legislation that makes his officers' jobs easier. Full Story from PressConnects.com. . .
That last part sounds a little questionable if you ask me; what does he do when he pulls over a car just to question its passengers and they blow him off because they think they're free to leave? Does he arrest them for "fleeing"? [Michele Berry]
Sunday, January 21, 2007
From USATODAY.com: The federal government could add DNA from tens of thousands of immigration violators, captives in the war on terrorism and others accused but not convicted of federal offenses to the FBI's crime-fighting database under a plan being finalized by the Justice Department.
Erik Ablin, a Justice Department spokesman, confirmed the plan, which hasn't been publicly disclosed, and said details are expected to be completed soon.
Proponents of the plan, including U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, say taking DNA from federal detainees would solve many crimes committed by illegal immigrants and make it easier to identify and track potential terrorists.
Opponents, such as Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office, say such mass seizures of DNA violate privacy and do little to improve law enforcement.
Fredrickson says the law that defines federal detainees is so broad that it could apply to hikers stopped by park rangers or airline passengers selected for screening. Authorization for taking the DNA was included in a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act that President Bush signed last year. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From jpost.com: Haifa University CrimProf Emmanuel Gross recently released his new book The Struggle of Democracy Against Terrorism, which was critiqued by Dan Izenberg in a current article of the online version of the Jerusalem Post. Here is what the critic had to say about the work:
"Emmanuel Gross's book is not an easy read and often raises more questions than it answers. It comes at a particularly timely moment in Israel's ongoing battle against terrorism, especially given its efforts over the past few months to cope with the threat from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
We will return to the question of how a democratic state, committed to human rights and the rule of law at home and in its international relations, is supposed to confront terrorists who deliberately embed themselves among the civilian population.
But this issue is only one of the many that Gross addresses. Others include the interrogation of terrorist suspects, the use of administrative measures such as administrative arrests, house demolitions, imposition of curfews, closures and roadblocks, the incarceration of "illegal fighters," intelligence-gathering techniques that invade privacy, the use of civilians as human shields, targeted assassinations and how to cope with the terrorists' use of their own people as human shields.
Gross calls for moderation and balance between the state's obligation to protect the lives of its citizens and the social and political structure that enables them to enjoy their liberties, and its obligation to safeguard those very liberties at the same time. In several cases, he compares the way Israel deals with some of the problems with the way it is done in the US and Britain."
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
From NPR.com: Some non-U.S. citizens detained by the government for violating immigration laws are kept in rat-infested, cramped detention centers, fed noxious food and denied basic hygiene items such as clean socks and underpants.
Those are the findings of a new study from the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency's internal watchdog. The report found that the agency violated the government's own guidelines on the treatment of immigrant detainees in jails and prisons.
Christina Deconcini helped write the Justice Department's official guidelines for the treatment of immigrant detainees in the 1990s. She says the average U.S. citizen would be appalled by the allegations in the report and failure to respond to grievances which it documents.
"I think they'd be amazed by some of the allegations of abuse and the lack of response to that," Deconcini says.
The Homeland Security Department detains hundreds of thousands of non-citizens every year in county jails and federal prisons. Most of these people are being held on charges of violating civil immigration laws. Thousands of others are detained while they apply for asylum.