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Group Welcomes Report On CIA Torture Program

   Washington, D.C. – 12/10/2014 - Human Rights First has welcomed the release of the executive summary of a landmark Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program. The report is the result of an investigation launched with bipartisan support, and the report itself was both adopted and declassified in separate bi-partisan votes in the committee.
   The report documents a program that was far more brutal and widespread than Americans were led to believe. The report also reveals that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” did not produce critical intelligence gains that had previously been claimed and that the CIA systematically misled the administration and Congress about the efficacy of the program. The group said it urges Congress and the administration to examine carefully the report’s key findings and take steps to ensure that torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment is never again the official policy of the United States.
   “This is how a strong democracy deals with its mistakes. We look at what we did, however painful that is, and we take the necessary steps to make it right. America is strongest when we keep faith with our ideals and uphold the rule of law. Thanks to the Senate’s report, Americans can now see for themselves how far we fell short of that standard, how little we gained—and how much we lost—because of it," Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino said. "The test for our democracy now is what we will do with that knowledge. The Obama Administration and Congress should work together to build a durable consensus against torture by pursuing legislation that demonstrates bipartisan unity and fidelity to our ideals. We can’t leave room for loophole lawyering when it comes to what we stand for as a nation.
   The Senate intelligence committee’s 6,000-plus-page study of the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program is one of the most comprehensive and thorough oversight endeavors in congressional history. For months Senate staff and the CIA were engaged in protracted discussions about the extent to which the committee’s report on the post-9/11 CIA torture program should be redacted.
   Former Air Force interrogator Colonel Steven Kleinman stated: “As a career interrogator, I know that the lawful, humane methods for acquiring intelligence are also the most effective. (The) report only reinforces this fact and makes it publicly available to the American people. There is no need to debate this any longer. Now it’s time to chart a new course for the future, one that will not only respect human rights, but will also keep America safe.”
   The report’s findings enjoy widespread support from political, national security, and intelligence leaders, including among Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The report was also initiated, adopted, and submitted for declassification on three independent, bipartisan votes. A nonpartisan group of retired generals and admirals who stood with President Obama in the Oval Office as he signed an executive order banning torture have tirelessly advocated for the report’s release.
   “Torture violates our laws, principles, and core foreign policy and national security interests,” said Alberto Mora, former general counsel of the Navy. “We will now be defined by the steps we take to ensure that this brutal practice never occurs again."
   Source: Human Rights First

Investor to Plead Guilty To Bid Rigging and Fraud

  (DOJ) - 12/3/2014 - A Northern California real estate investor has agreed to plead guilty for his role in conspiracies to rig bids and commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced.
    Felony charges were filed on December 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland against Garry Wan of Concord, California. To date, 50 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty, as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California.
    According to court documents, beginning as early as May 2008 until January 2011, Wan conspired with others not to bid against one another, and instead designate a winning bidder to obtain selected properties at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Alameda County. Wan was also charged with conspiring to use the mail to carry out a scheme to fraudulently acquire title to selected Alameda County properties sold at public auctions, to make and receive payoffs, and to divert money to co-conspirators that would have otherwise gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries by holding second, private auctions open only to members of the conspiracy. The department said that the selected properties were then awarded to the conspirators who submitted the highest bids in the second, private auctions. The private auctions often took place at or near the courthouse steps where the public auctions were held.
    “While there has been a lengthy series of guilty pleas by the participants in this activity, the division’s work is not yet over,” said Brent Snyder, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute collusion at real estate foreclosure auctions, which allow the conspirators to profit from illegal payoffs at the expense of financial institutions and distressed homeowners.”
    The department said that the primary purpose of the conspiracies was to suppress and eliminate competition and to conceal payoffs in order to obtain selected real estate offered at Alameda County public foreclosure auctions at non-competitive prices. When real estate properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with remaining proceeds, if any, paid to the homeowner. According to court documents, these conspirators paid and received money that otherwise would have gone to pay off the mortgage and other holders of debt secured by the properties, and, in some cases, the defaulting homeowner.
    “These charges demonstrate our continued commitment to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations responsible for the corruption of the public foreclosure auction process,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office. “The FBI is committed to work these important cases and remains unwavering in our dedication to bring the members of these illegal conspiracies to justice.”
    A violation of the Sherman Act carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine for the Sherman Act charges may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victim if either amount is greater than $1 million. A count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The government can also seek to forfeit the proceeds earned from participating in the conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
    Today’s charges are the latest filed by the department in its ongoing investigation into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, California. These investigations are being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office and the FBI’s San Francisco Office. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Office at 415-934-5300, or call the FBI tip line at 415-553-7400.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

American Corrections System Keeps Growing

   PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS - 11/11/2014 - Explosive growth in the number of people on probation or parole has propelled the population of the American corrections system to more than 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 U.S. adults, according to a recent report by the Pew Center on the States. The vast majority of these offenders live in the community, yet new data in the report finds that nearly 90 percent of state corrections dollars are spent on prisons. One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections examines the scale and cost of prison, jail, probation and parole in each of the 50 states, and provides a blueprint for states to cut both crime and spending by reallocating prison expenses to fund stronger supervision of the large number of offenders in the community.  
   Most states are facing serious budget deficits,” The Pew Center Managing Director on the States Susan Urahn said. “Every single one of them should be making smart investments in community corrections that will help them cut costs and improve outcomes.”
   In the past two decades, state general fund spending on corrections increased by more than 300 percent, outpacing other essential government services from education, to transportation and public assistance. Only Medicaid spending has grown faster. Today, corrections imposes a national taxpayer burden of $68 billion a year. Despite this increased spending, recidivism rates have remained largely unchanged.
   Research shows that strong community supervision programs for lower-risk, non-violent offenders not only cost significantly less than incarceration but, when appropriately resourced and managed, can cut recidivism by as much as 30 percent. Diverting these offenders to community supervision programs also frees up prison beds needed to house violent offenders, and can offer budget makers additional resources for other pressing public priorities.
   One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections provides a detailed look at who is in the corrections system and which states have the highest populations of offenders behind bars and in the community. Key findings include:

  • One in 31 adults in America is in prison or jail, or on probation or parole. Twenty-five years ago, the rate was 1 in 77.
  • Overall, two-thirds of offenders are in the community, not behind bars. 1 in 45 adults is on probation or parole and 1 in 100 is in prison or jail. The proportion of offenders behind bars versus in the community has changed very little over the past 25 years, despite the addition of 1.1 million prison beds.
  • Correctional control rates are highly concentrated by race and geography: 1 in 11 black adults (9.2 percent) versus 1 in 27 Hispanic adults (3.7 percent) and 1 in 45 white adults (2.2 percent); 1 in 18 men (5.5 percent) versus 1 in 89 women (1.1 percent). The rates can be extremely high in certain neighborhoods. In one block-group of Detroit's East Side, for example, 1 in 7 adult men (14.3 percent) is under correctional control.
  • Georgia, where 1 in 13 adults is behind bars or under community supervision, leads the top five states that also include Idaho, Texas, Massachusetts, Ohio and the District of Columbia.

   The report also analyzes the cost of current sentencing and corrections policies. The National Association of State Budget Officers estimates that states spent a record $51.7 billion on corrections in FY2008, or 1 in every 15 general fund dollars. Adding local, federal and other funding brings the national correctional spending total to $68 billion.
   While total correctional spending figures have been available before, new data collected by the Pew Center on the States for the report provides the first breakdown of correctional spending by prisons, probation and parole in the past seven years:

  • In FY 2008, the 34 states for which data are available spent $18.65 billion on prisons (88 percent of corrections spending), but only $2.52 billion on probation and parole (12 percent).
  • For eight states where 25 years of data were available, spending on prisons grew by $4.74 billion from FY 1983 to FY 2008, while probation and parole spending increased by only $652 million. This means that while prisons accounted for one-third of the population growth, they consumed 88 percent of the new corrections expenditures.
  • The 33 states that were able to provide data reported spending as much as 22 times more per day to manage prison inmates than to supervise offenders in the community. The reported average inmate cost was $79 per day, or nearly $29,000 per year. The average cost of managing an offender in the community ranged from $3.42 per day for probationers to $7.47 per day for parolees, or about $1,250 to $2,750 a year.

   “Violent and career criminals need to be locked up, and for a long time. But our research shows that prisons are housing too many people who can be managed safely and held accountable in the community at far lower cost,” Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project Director Adam Gelb said. “New community supervision strategies and technologies need to be strengthened and expanded, not scaled back. Cutting them may appear to save a few dollars, but it doesn't. It will fuel the cycle of more crime, more victims, more arrests, more prosecutions, and still more imprisonment.”
   One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections provides states with a blueprint and specific case studies for strengthening their community corrections systems, saving money and reducing crime. Research-based recommendations include:
  • Sort offenders by risk to public safety to determine appropriate levels of supervision;
  • Base intervention programs on sound research about what works to reduce recidivism;
  • Harness advances in supervision technology such as electronic monitoring and rapid-result alcohol and drug tests;
  • Impose swift and certain sanctions for offenders who break the rules of their release but who do not commit new crimes; and
  • Create incentives for offenders and supervision agencies to succeed, and monitor their performance. 
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts


Photo by Steve Rensberry (c) 2014