Justice Dept. to charge 2 Russian spies and 2 criminal hackers with 2014 Yahoo breach of 500 million accounts

Before today's anticipated announcement by the Justice Department, more details are already leaking out about who they're after: “two Russian spies, and two criminal hackers.”

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A grim documentary examines solitary confinement

Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison aired last night after a successful festival run. The film is an unflinching look at life in solitary confinement at Red Onion supermax, where prisoners spend 23 hours a day or more in solitary confinement. Read the rest

Chelsea Manning to go free!

President Obama commuted whistleblower Chelsea Manning's remaining prison sentence. She will go free on May 17 of this year as opposed to 2045, the duration of her full sentence. From the New York Times:

The commutation also relieved the Department of Defense of the difficult responsibility of her incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria — including sex reassignment surgery — that the military has no experience providing.

In recent days, the White House had signaled that Mr. Obama was seriously considering granting Ms. Manning’s commutation application, in contrast to a pardon application submitted on behalf of the other large-scale leaker of the era, Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who disclosed archives of top secret surveillance files and is living as a fugitive in Russia.

Asked about the two clemency applications on Friday, the White House spokesman, Joshua Earnest, discussed the “pretty stark difference” between Ms. Manning’s case for mercy with Mr. Snowden’s. While their offenses were similar, he said, there were “some important differences.”

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” he said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”

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Leaked FBI documents reveal secret rules for spying on journalists with National Security Letters

Today, The Intercept published leaked documents that contain the FBI’s secret rules for targeting journalists and sources with National Security Letters (NSLs)—the controversial and unconstitutional warrantless tool the FBI uses to conduct surveillance without any court supervision whatsoever.

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Adnan Syed of 'Serial' podcast will get a new trial

A Maryland judge today granted a retrial to Adnan Syed, whose conviction for the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend was the subject of the first season of the popular podcast “Serial.”

Syed’s lawyer C. Justin Brown announced the news Thursday afternoon via Twitter, and confirmed to reporters later that the motion for a new trial was granted by Judge Martin Welch.

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Don't let the government hack your computer. Tell Congress to stop changes to #Rule41.

“The U.S. government wants to use an obscure procedure—amending a federal rule known as Rule 41— to radically expand their authority to hack,” the EFF says. “The changes to Rule 41 would make it easier for them to break into our computers, take data, and engage in remote surveillance.

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'Spam King' Sanford Wallace gets 2.5 years in prison for 27 million Facebook scam messages

A hacker who called himself 'Spam King' and sent 27 million unsolicited Facebook messages for a variety of scams has been sentenced to 30 months in jail.

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Dozens of news orgs demand DOJ release its secret rules for targeting journalists with secret National Security Letters

Freedom of the Press Foundation recently filed a huge brief in the organization's case demanding that the Justice Department release its secret rules for targeting journalists with National Security Letters. And in related news, a coalition of 37 news organizations - including the New York Times, The Associated Press, USA Today, Buzzfeed, and tons more - filed an amicus brief in support of the Freedom of the Press Foundation case, demanding that the Department of Justice do the same.

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Stanford rapist's dad says jail time is "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action"

The father of Brock Turner, convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, told the court that imprisonment would be "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action" Read the rest

Campus rapist given lenient sentence to avoid "severe impact on him"

Former Stanford University athlete Brock Allen Turner, 20, raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Prosecutors wanted him put away for 6 years, but the judge, Aaron Persky, gave him 6 months to avoid being unnecessarily harsh on the boy. He'll be out in a few weeks.

After a jury convicted Turner of sexually penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious person with a foreign object, prosecutors asked a judge to sentence him to six years in California prison. Probation officials had recommended the significantly lighter penalty of six months in county jail, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The judge, Aaron Perksy, cited Turner’s age and lack of criminal history as factors in his decision, saying, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

This was described as a "brazen" attack: he was physically forced off of his victim, then chased down and detained by passers-by until police arrived. Yet this column, by Scott Herhold, was the sort of coverage he enjoyed in the press:

Turner was rightfully convicted. I wrote a column earlier this year praising the two Stanford students, both from Sweden, who interrupted the assault and chased the drunken athlete down.

But probation officials, who see hundreds of less remorseful defendants, had it right. Turner should be given six months in county jail. He is not, as the prosecution has it, "a continued threat to the community." Why do I say that? The probation people cite his lack of a criminal record and what they see as genuine remorse.

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Technology's "culture of compliance" must be beaten back in the name of justice

In 1989, Canadian activist, engineer and thinker Ursula Franklin gave a series of extraordinary lectures on the politics of technology design and deployment called "The Real World of Technology." Read the rest

Former Reuters journalist Matthew Keys sentenced to 2 years for a 40-minute web defacement

On Wednesday, former Reuters.com social media editor Matthew Keys received a two year prison sentence for computer hacking. That's a sentence of 24 months, for a website defacement that lasted only 40 minutes, which Keys himself didn't even execute.

Earlier today in an unrelated high-profile case, the "affluenza teen" who actually murdered people also got two years in jail.

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President Obama issues 61 sentence commutations, only 10,000 more to go

Today, President Obama met with Americans who have received commutations on prison sentences during his presidency, and under previous administrations. Today, Obama commuted the sentences of 61 more people who were convicted of federal drug and firearm crimes. More than than a third of them were serving life in prison.

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Fellowships for "Robin Hood" hackers to help poor people get access to the law

New York City's Robin Hood Labs at Blue Ridge Laboratories have opening for paid fellowships to develop apps and technologies to give low-income people legal assistance in civil proceedings, like evictions, debt collection, and immigration procedures. Read the rest

Feds say Apple's pro-privacy response to iPhone hacking order is a 'marketing stunt'

Apple said no to the government, and the government is pissed.

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Pittsburgh police chief wants to fire cop who beat up teen

Last year, Pittsburgh Police officer Sgt. Stephen Matakovich was captured on camera beating up a 19-year-old outside Heinz Field. After lying about the circumstances, he was charged with assault—only to find the charges dismissed last week by a judge.

When video of the attack found its way to the media, however, the story changed: police chief Cameron McLay has now suspended Matakovich and says he will fire him, while prosecutors are planning to refile charges against the officer.

WPXI 11 reports that it'll be hard to make it stick: Matakovich can appeal the decision to city executives who can overrule McLay, then take it to an arbitration panel, where he can select one of the three people tasked with the final decision.

Deja vu: in 2003, Matakovich was recorded threatening to assault a superior officer, but was let off the hook over his own supervisor's objections. Read the rest

Freedom of the Press Foundation sues Justice Dept. for info on its push to block transparency reform

Freedom of the Press Foundation has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department for all correspondence the agency has had with Congress over proposed FOIA reform bills that died last year in Congress, despite having unanimous support of all its members.

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