Daily Archives: March 7, 2012

NYPD Crime Stats Manipulation Widespread, Must Be Investigated, Criminologists Say

Two criminologists offer their take on this week’s Voice cover story about the secret NYPD investigation which confirmed allegations by Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft of downgrading of crime reports in the 81st Precinct.

By John A. Eterno and Eli B. Silverman

Vindication! The newly exposed New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Quality Assurance Division Report indicating nearly all of our allegations are correct has been around since June 2010. Attacks against our research went on well into 2011 and continue until this day. How in good conscience NYPD could continue to attack Adrian Schoolcraft and our research is beyond shame; it is revolting.

Without question Graham Rayman’s explosive exposé of the NYPD’s internal Quality Assurance Division Report on downgrading crime is a rarity. It represents the city’s investigative reporting at its best. Our book The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation unveils the mainstream media’s sustained failure to pursue the NYPD’s proclivity to manipulate crime reports to make them appear favorable.

Mr. Rayman and a previous Voice reporter, Paul Moses, are two critically important exceptions to the media’s meekness in exploring the NYPD’s statistical legerdemain. Moses exposed a skyrocketing rise in lost property complaints – a key indicator that fudging reports was taking place. Other media outlets would profit from this type of superb investigative reporting.


This Week in the Voice: The NYPD Tapes Confirmed

Secret NYPD Report Confirms Whistleblower’s Claims, and Then Some

Without the Voice’s exposé, the NYPD’s internal report would likely never have seen the light of day. The Quality Assurance Division’s two year investigation states the truth: The 81 precinct systematically fostered a culture finely attuned to the downgrading of crime. One might expect that based on this newly exposed report and mountains of other evidence, that the NYPD would now take seriously what we as social scientists have been saying for years – this is a problem throughout the NYPD and must be investigated in full. Unfortunately, given reaction to previous revelations, we are not hopeful.

What mountains of evidence are we referencing? Let’s start with the NYPD’s own officers and sergeants informing them for years that these behaviors were occurring throughout the city. Both the PBA and the SBA (the department’s police officer’s and sergeant’s unions) have had press conferences indicating this truth. Response by NYPD- –to denigrate these accounts and those who reported them.

Our scientific study now published in the aforementioned book and in two scientific peer reviewed journals used both quantitative and qualitative data strongly buttressing the hypothesis that this is a citywide problem. Our quantitative study is based on a survey of hundreds of retirees in the ranks of captain and above. Using those who worked before the NYPD’s performance management system (Compstat) was in place as a baseline; we compared responses of manager’s perceptions about pressures from the upper echelon of the NYPD before and after the Compstat system was put in place.

We were stunned by the responses we received. Based on their personal experiences we found enormous pressures to decrease the numbers of index crimes (those reported to the FBI) and to downgrade index crimes into other non reported categories. Additionally, the perception of the demand for integrity in the crime reports was much less in the current era. Approximately 75 percent of our respondents who were aware of crime report manipulation indicated that the manipulation they experienced was unethical. We also collected qualitative data in the form of in-depth interviews with over 30 retired and some active officers of all ranks. They confirmed nearly every aspect of the previous results and then some. Importantly, they indicated that these practices are taking place citywide due to the pressures of Compstat. Current working personnel have confirmed that these practices are alive and well in today’s NYPD.

Beyond this, crime victims have come forward. One was a victim of identity theft. When he went to the police to report the crime the victim was merely given a letter and told to leave the precinct. The letter, on NYPD stationary and reprinted in our book, states the NYPD “requires specific documentation be submitted before a police report for identity theft or fraud related crimes can be taken.”

The letter informs the victim that such documentation includes a letter from the company with their letterhead giving specific information about you, who opened the account, and where merchandise was sent; a company affidavit that is notarized indicating the complainant has no prior knowledge or involvement among other items, copies of your credit report from three separate reporting bureaus; and other assorted documentation.

Surely the police can do better than hand victims of crimes letters ordering them to prove they are victims before taking reports. Such behavior is unconscionable. Unfortunately, our research indicates that the situation is even worse.

Attempted rape victim Debbie Nathan communicated with us soon after our report went public. She too indicated her horrid experiences in trying to report a sex crime to the NYPD. There are others as well. Graham Rayman revealed a detective’s experience with a rape perpetrator. The detective apprehended a rapist who confessed to many other rapes. When the detective examined the complaint file to close out the cases, he found that all the previous rapes were listed as minor crimes, mostly criminal trespass. After being sued, the NYPD tardily released data on criminal trespasses. Low and behold, they are skyrocketing citywide.

There is much more. Hospital data is at complete variance with NYPD reports. Importantly, for example, firearms assaults at emergency rooms are dramatically increasing while the NYPD claims assaults are down tremendously. The City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene shows drug use in the city increasing (as does hospital data) but NYPD complaint data are all down for use of drugs. All this does not include the data manipulation to which the NYPD has admitted..

Four precinct commanders and others have been disciplined in the past. All of this took place while the Compstat performance management system has been in place. There are also well-documented cases of crime report manipulation in other places that essentially copied the NYPD performance management system.

Other cities in the United States such as New Orleans, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia have admitted problems. Other countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, and France have admitted problems as well. Certainly, the track record of the NYPD system is problematic.

There are also the audiotapes in the 81 precinct in Brooklyn and the 41 in the Bronx. Now the allegations in the 81 precinct are confirmed by this NYPD report. This report unearthed by Mr. Rayman and not shared with the public is in stark contrast to the public images NYPD presents: constant denials and attacks of those who question them. Why must investigative reporters have to get these reports? The public is entitled to this.

The NYPD has a problem with its culture. The NYPD must be investigated immediately. How much evidence is needed? How many victims will go unheard? Do the words “transparency” and “community partnerships” mean anything? Apparently, the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg are in complete denial. The NYPD needs a complete overhaul. Investigating Muslims with no suspicion, going to other states and counties with little or no permission, nearly 700,000 forcible stops of criminal suspects last year while at the same time claiming crime is at an all time low, summonses and arrest quotas, pressures on commanders for numbers, and much more. The evidence of a problem with NYPD culture is obvious to any person who looks at the mountains of evidence. A neutral outside investigative body with subpoena power and the ability to grant immunity is needed. Let’s stop the charade and get it done.

Eterno is a professor at Molloy College. Silverman is professor emeritus at John Jay College.

Facebook: The Billionaire Network

forbes.com | Mar 7, 2012

When it comes to valuing Facebook’s billionaires, there have been some head-spinning numbers thrown around.

It was made all the more dizzying when the Menlo Park-based company filed for its initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission in February. Since then, Facebook has been the subject of constant chatter. How much is the company really worth? $50 billion? $75 billion? $100 billion?

As the world awaits for Facebook to price its IPO, here’s one number while you sit tight: $28.7 billion.

That’s the combined net worth of Facebook’s three founders, one early exec, and three early investors–all billionaires who have made most of their fortune from the social networking phenomenon. According to Forbes Billionaires List for 2012, three Facebook founders, including Mark Zuckerberg (No. 35), and four of the company’s backers, including Peter Thiel (No. 854), are worth nearly $30 billion all together.

The bulk of that comes from CEO Zuckerberg, whose net worth of $17.5 billion is up $4 billion from Forbes’ 2011 evaluation. Jumping 16 spots up on the list from last year’s ranking, Zuckerberg oversees an empire that he started out of his Harvard dorm room. He maintains majority voting control (perhaps on advice from Sean Parker) over the company by arranging for Thiel, cofounder Dustin Moskovitz (No. 314) and other insiders to let him vote their shares.

Forbes’ estimate of Zuckerberg’s net worth is not as high as some would expect. We chose to take a conservative view, using the most recent reported institutional transaction as the basis for valuing the company and its sandal-sporting, hoodie-clad chief. His net worth may change when the IPO occurs later this year.  Zuckerberg owns 28.4% of all outstanding Class B shares in the company.

Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin (No. 634) are the other Facebook founders who crossed the the billion dollar threshold. Moskovitz, who at 27 is the youngest billionaire on Forbes’ list–he’s younger than Zuckerberg by eight days–has a net worth of $3.5 billion. That’s up from $2.7 billion last year. He left Facebook to start Asana, a collaboration software company. Saverin lives in Singapore where he invests in technology startups. The ousted founder, who received a 5% stake in the company following a lawsuit and has since sold some of his shares, is worth $2 billion, up $400 million from last year.

Two early investors, who sit on the Facebook board, are also billionaires because of their early investment in the social networking company. Thiel invested $500,000 in 2004 and that stake alone is worth well over two-thirds of his $1.5 billion. Jim Breyer (No. 1,075) and his Accel Partners invested $12.7 million in Facebook. The $1.1 billion man owns one percent of the company separate from his firm’s roughly 10% stake.

Yuri Milner (No. 1,153), the smiling Russian who was on the cover of last year’s edition of the World’s Billionaire List, has a net worth that remains unchanged at $1 billion. A sharp Silicon Valley investor, he didn’t quite get into Facebook as early as Thiel or Breyer. Milner invested $200 million through his fund, DST Global, in 2009. According to Facebook’s S-1, Milner holds ultimate voting power over DST’s shares, which constitute 5.5% of the company’s voting power.

Parker (No. 601) has had his share of hot companies, including Spotify and Airtime, but the vast majority of the Napster man’s $2.1 billion fortune stems from his early role in Facebook. He only maintains an equity interest, however, and has deferred his shares to Zuckerberg for all company voting matters.

Facebook’s Gang of Seven may have to make space for one more in the coming years: Sheryl Sandberg, who joined Facebook as its Chief Operating Officer in March 2008. One of the valley’s most powerful women, the Walt Disney and Starbucks board member only owns 1.8 million shares, far less than a 1% stake. She does, however, own more than 39 million Restricted Stock Units, which make take her well over the $1 billion mark if and when they vest and Facebook’s post-IPO stock price pops, as some analysts expect.

Until that IPO, we’ll keep tracking Facebook–with its 845 million active users and 100 billion friendships–and its billionaires.

Two Murdoch journalists reportedly attempt suicide as pressure mounts

msnbc.com | Mar 7, 2012

Two senior journalists working for Rupert Murdoch’s News International have attempted suicide as pressure mounts at the scandal-hit publisher of the now-defunct News of the World, according to media reports.

The suicide attempts follow weeks of intense scrutiny of the role of The Sun, another Murdoch paper, in the phone-hacking scandal and police bribery case.

The man and the woman, who were reportedly involved in separate incidents, were rescued in time, a friend of one of them said, according to a report Tuesday on stuff.co.nz. The two journalists have been checked into the hospital, according to a report Tuesday by the Financial Times. The newspaper reported that their care is being paid for by News International. 

“It was not a suicide pact,” the friend told the New Zealand-based news organization. “The attempts were not simultaneous and there is no suggestion of a pact.”

Eleven current and former staff of the Sun, Britain’s best-selling daily tabloid, have been arrested this year on suspicion of bribing police or civil servants for tip-offs, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Their arrests have come as a result of information provided to the police by the Management and Standards Committee, or MSC, a body set up by parent company News Corp to facilitate police investigations and liaise with the courts.

The work of the MSC, which was set up to be independent of the conglomerate’s British newspaper arm News International, has caused bitterness among staff, many of whom feel betrayed by an employer they have loyally served.

“People think that they’ve been thrown under a bus,” one News International employee told Reuters. “They’re beyond angry – there’s an utter sense of betrayal, not just with the organization but with a general lynch-mob hysteria.”

News International, the European arm of Murdoch’s empire, is facing multiple criminal investigations and civil court cases as well as a public inquiry into press standards after long-simmering criticism of its practices came to a head last July.

Politicians once close to Murdoch, including Prime Minister David Cameron, turned their backs on him and demanded answers after the Guardian newspaper revealed the News of the World had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The London Evening Standard reported that other News International journalists are “terribly stressed and many are on the edge.” The company has reportedly offered psychiatric help to any journalist who wants help.

US burning of Koran was intentional, Afghan investigator says

Supporters of Pakistan Islamic party Islami Jamiat-e-Tulba burn a mock of US flag as they shout slogans during a protest against the alleged ‘Koran burning’ by the US troops, in Multan, Pakistan, 02 March 2012. . EPA/MK CHAUDHARY

monstersandcritics.com | Mar 5, 2012

Kabul – The burning of the Koran at a US military base in Afghanistan was intentional, a member of the Afghan investigating team told dpa Monday.

‘We believe it is intentional,’ said Maulavi Khaliqdad, a member of the panel established by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

‘If they burnt one or two copies, then we could have said it could have been a mistake. But they took hundreds of such books to burn. Everyone knew those were religious books.’

News that US soldiers in Bagram airbase north of Kabul had burnt copies of religious books including the Muslim scriptures, the Koran, last month caused violent protests nationwide.

International military officials apologized and said it was ‘unintentional.’ US President Barack Obama also sent a written apology to Karzai.

But despite apologies and calls for calm by Karzai, more than 30 protesters were killed in the ensuing violence.

Six US soldiers were also killed in apparent revenge attacks by their Afghan allies, including two US military advisers who were murdered inside the fortified Interior Ministry building.

Khaliqdad said the team’s finding that the burning was intentional has been presented to Karzai and parliament.

‘It is impossible if you collect that many books from a library … Someone is responsible for this,’ he said. ‘We cannot accept that they say it was a mistake.’

‘A mistake is when someone does something without any knowledge or when someone is unaware,’ said Khaliqdad, who is also a member of religious Ulema Council of Islamic scholars and mullahs.

Khaliqdad said a senior Afghan army officer had asked the US military staff where the books were being taken before they were burnt.

‘And they told him that the books were being taken to storage,’ he said. ‘But instead they were burnt.’

It is not exactly known if any or how many books were burnt but the construction workers rescued 216 copies of religious books, of which 48 were Korans, his investigation team found.

After the labourers objected, the US soldiers returned with the rest of books without throwing them in the fire, according to the investigation.

Khaliqdad said the team looked at the books in the storage that were set aside for burning and found nothing with extremist messages written on them, as suggested by some NATO officials.

‘We saw different types of religious books including the Koran. Many were new and did not have anything written in them. We saw some where the prisoners had written the dates they were arrested on and the topic of holy passage from the Koran and the page number,’ he said.

‘There were no secret messages, no political messages … There were no books related to the Taliban or al Qaeda. These were books that are taught by the Ulema everywhere,’ Khaliqdad said.

Khaliqdad also said similar books that were set aside for burning were found in the prison library.

‘The Afghan national army has a religious department there. The US military did not discuss this with anyone (before burning them),’ Khaliqdad said.

He said the team had recommended punishment for those who were involved in the Koran burning.

‘This is a crime and you can not convince people with an apology when a crime is done,’ he said.

‘We want the punishment for those who were involved in this. They should be punished according to law.’

The head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan last week also asked that the United States should take disciplinary action against the perpetrators.

Earlier, Karzai had also called on the US to put the perpetrators on trial and punish them.

Separate investigations on the Koran burning incident are ongoing, led by NATO and Afghan authorities. Many officials fear a new round of violent protests could erupt following the findings of the investigation teams.

Whistle-blower: NSA a rogue agency that operates in a black box

Thomas Drake  (Credit: Tony Powell)

NSA whistle-blower: Obama “worse than Bush”

Thomas Drake on life inside the National Security Agency and the price of truth telling

Salon | Mar 7, 2012

By Matthew Harwood

Thomas Drake, the whistle-blower whom the Obama administration tried and failed to prosecute for leaking information about waste, fraud and abuse at the National Security Agency, now works at an Apple store in Maryland. In an interview with Salon, Drake laughed about the time he confronted Attorney General Eric Holder at his store while Holder perused the gadgetry on display with his security detail around him. When Drake started asking Holder questions about his case, America’s chief law enforcement officer turned and fled the store.

But the humor drained away quickly from Drake’s thin and tired face as he recounted his ordeal since 2010 when federal prosecutors charged him with violating the Espionage Act for retaining classified information they believed he would pass on to then Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman. While Drake never disclosed classified information, he did pass on unclassified information to Gorman revealing that the NSA had wasted billions of taxpayers’ dollars on Trailblazer, a contractor-heavy intelligence software program that failed to find terrorist threats in the tsunami of digital data the agency was sucking up globally — and sometimes unconstitutionally. While Trailblazer burned through cash,  in the process enriching many NSA employees turned contractors, Drake found that another software program named ThinThread had already met the core requirements of a federal acquisition regulation that governed the proposed system at a sliver of the cost, all while protecting American civil liberties at the code level. The NSA leadership, however, had already bet their careers on Trailblazer. So Drake blew the whistle, first to Congress, then to the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, and finally, and fatefully, to Gorman.

Last June, the government’s case collapsed. On the eve of trial, all 10 counts were dropped. In a Kafkaesque turn of events, Drake actually helped the government find a misdemeanor to charge him with — exceeding authorized use of an NSA computer — so federal prosecutors could save face. Once facing 35 years behind bars, Drake pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to one year of probation and 240 hours of community service, what he sardonically calls “his penance.”

But his legal battles haven’t ended. Currently, Drake, along with the four other whistle-blowers he worked with to expose NSA waste, fraud and abuse, are fighting to get their property back that the FBI confiscated during its criminal investigations. Once a registered Republican and now a self-described “free-speech absolutist,” Drake describes the NSA as a rogue agency that operates in a black box that the public cannot penetrate.

Drake, along with his attorney Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, sat down for a three-hour interview with Salon. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

Matthew Harwood: What happens at a place like the NSA when they don’t trust you anymore?

I blew the whistle literally on Trailblazer during that 2003-2005 time frame. That led to a whole series of what I will call the retaliation, reprisal and retribution by a thousand cuts, bureaucratic and administrative, where they slowly take you away from your primary responsibilities. They isolate you so you increasingly have less and less of a role to play, even though I was a senior executive in the government.

It’s like Milton out of “Office Space.” You’re put in the basement in a cubicle away from everyone.

You talk about Milton in the basement with his stapler. That’s effectively what happened. You are uninvited from certain kinds of meetings. You end up having certain key functions reassigned to even your own staff members or informed that the funding that you had been receiving, well, you know we don’t need to do that anymore.

In your opinion, is it in the hope that you resign?

Yeah, part of it is the isolation. A bureaucracy can really create this artificial desert, but the desert is real. And in essence, what happens is that they’re taking away the meaning and purpose for who you are when at work. Given that work for so many people is their identity, it attempts to fragment your identity. If you fragment that identity enough, then the hope is you’ll just pack up and take your bag somewhere else. And good riddance. I remember when they realized that I was a threat. The white blood cells were kicking in big time.

It sounds like some dystopian corporate environment but in an absurd, petty way.

You talk about the dark side of Dilbert; they were literally manufacturing incidents that never occurred. That’s the level at which they excel. The distrust within this dystopia of each other: people come into work looking to make someone else’s life bad and they’re deriving great pleasure from the psychological pain they’re inflicting bureaucratically on one another. What does that tell you?

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