Daily Archives: March 17, 2012

Serial Killer Ted Bundy’s Lawyer Representing Soldier in Afghan Massacre

John Henry Browne, the lawyer for the U.S. soldier suspected in the shooting deaths of 16 Afghan civilians, has a history of defending clients in multiple homicide cases, including serial killer Ted Bundy and mass murderer Benjamin Ng.

“He gets good outcomes for his clients.”

bloomberg.com | Mar 17, 2012

By Andrew Harris, Sophia Pearson and Peter Robison

John Henry Browne, the lawyer for the U.S. soldier suspected in the shooting deaths of 16 Afghan civilians, has a history of defending clients in multiple homicide cases, including serial killer Ted Bundy and mass murderer Benjamin Ng.

During his 40 years as an attorney, Browne, 65, the chief trial lawyer in the King County Office of the Public Defender in Seattle before going into private practice, has represented arsonists, a shoeless airplane thief and a man accused of killing a celebrity dog trainer.

“He seems to thrive on controversial cases, and he gets good outcomes for his clients,” said Richard Hansen, whom Browne hired in 1976 to work as a public defender in Seattle.

Browne’s newest client, a 38-year-old Army staff sergeant, is suspected of going on a rampage about three months into his first tour of duty in Afghanistan following three deployments to Iraq. The Army said in a memo to Congress that the soldier allegedly hiked to two villages close to his base near Kandahar city on March 11 to commit the killings.

The suspect is U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, according to a U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because charges haven’t been announced. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Captain John Kirby, had said the suspect is being brought to the U.S. Bales is being held at a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Army later said.

The stress of a fourth deployment, a troubled marriage and alcohol use appear to have combined to provoke the killings, said a U.S. official briefed on the case.

At a press conference at his Seattle office on March 15, Browne disputed that account.

‘Strong Marriage’

“This is a very strong marriage,” Browne said. “There’s a lot of love, a lot of respect, two children.”

There were no incidents of domestic violence “whatsoever” and no indication alcohol had played a part in the alleged attack. Browne said.

Browne and Emma Scanlan, an associate at his firm, didn’t return calls seeking comment yesterday.

If convicted of murder after a military trial, the suspect may face a death sentence, said Eugene Fidell, former president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

The soldier will have a preliminary hearing, where a military judge will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a court-martial, said Fidell, who teaches military justice classes at Yale University. There is no bail in military proceedings, he said.

‘Barefoot Bandit’

Browne graduated from American University (NAUH) School of Law in 1971, according to his law firm’s website. He worked as an assistant attorney general in Washington state before joining the public defender’s office in 1975.

Last year, Browne represented airplane thief Colton Harris- Moore, known as the “Barefoot Bandit” because he committed some of his crimes while not wearing shoes. Moore pleaded guilty to the plane theft and other charges and is serving a 6 1/2-year prison sentence.

Bundy assaulted or killed three dozen women across the U.S., according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was one of the FBI’s 10 most wanted fugitives when he was caught in February 1978. He was executed in Florida in 1989.

Browne was counsel for Benjamin Ng, who was convicted in the killing of 13 people in Seattle in 1983. Ng was spared a death sentence.

Dog Trainer

Browne also represented Michiel Oakes, who was convicted of killing Mark Stover, a dog trainer who worked for Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz and Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. Oakes got a 26 1/2-year sentence in 2010, the Seattle Times reported.

Prosecutors who worked on the Oakes and Harris-Moore cases declined to discuss their experiences with Browne or didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.

Browne, although not a regular on the military circuit, is highly competent as a defense lawyer and a reasonable choice as counsel because he’s from “that part of the country,” Fidell said.

“In serious cases, people who can afford it will hire a civilian,” he said. “There aren’t that many civilian lawyers who do these cases.”

While lawyers from the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps will provide assistance, Browne will steer the case and make the strategic decisions, Fidell said.

The soldier in the Afghan attacks allegedly gathered 11 of those he killed into one home and set the bodies on fire, Lal Mohammed, an elder from Zangabad, the area where the incident occurred, said by phone. Afterward, the soldier walked back to base and surrendered, according to Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, spokesman for the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.
Great ‘Cruelty’

U.S. President Barack Obama called Afghan President Hamid Karzai “to express his shock and sadness” and pledged “to hold fully accountable anyone responsible,” according to a White House statement. Karzai said the incident shows “great oppression and cruelty” toward the people of Afghanistan, according to a statement from his office.

Evidence gathering for the soldier’s hearing could be difficult because of the incident’s location, Fidell said. The hostility of villagers and Muslim law requiring bodies to be buried quickly and without an autopsy also pose obstacles to prosecution, according to Fidell.

Investigators will collect as much evidence as possible ahead of the preliminary hearing, Fidell said. “That’s assuming they’re getting assistance from the villagers instead of being shot at,” he said.
Last Execution

The last soldier executed by the military was Army private John Arthur Bennett, Fidell said. Bennett, convicted of raping and attempting to murder an 11-year-old Austrian girl, was executed by hanging in 1961. A handful of army prisoners are being held on death row at the U.S. disciplinary barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Fidell said.

“No one can be executed without the affirmative personal approval of the president,” Fidell said.

Defense lawyers represent unpopular clients to protect the legal process, said Hansen, the former public defender.

“The tough cases tend to warp the system in a bad way,” Hansen said in a phone interview. “The public becomes acutely aware of the most horrendous crimes so the laws tend to get ramped up because of the most atypical cases.”

CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher

CIA Director David Petraeus unwinds with some Wii Golf, 2008. Photo: Wikimedia

Wired | Mar 15, 2012

By Spencer Ackerman

More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them.

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”

Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices “change our notions of secrecy” and prompt a rethink of “our notions of identity and secrecy.” All of which is true — if convenient for a CIA director.

The CIA has a lot of legal restrictions against spying on American citizens. But collecting ambient geolocation data from devices is a grayer area, especially after the 2008 carve-outs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Hardware manufacturers, it turns out, store a trove of geolocation data; and some legislators have grown alarmed at how easy it is for the government to track you through your phone or PlayStation.

That’s not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. He’s interested in creating new online identities for his undercover spies — and sweeping away the “digital footprints” of agents who suddenly need to vanish.

“Proud parents document the arrival and growth of their future CIA officer in all forms of social media that the world can access for decades to come,” Petraeus observed. “Moreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital footprint for new identities for some officers.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Online cache is not a spy’s friend. But Petraeus has an inadvertent pal in Facebook.

Why? With the arrival of Timeline, Facebook made it super-easy to backdate your online history. Barack Obama, for instance, hasn’t been on Facebook since his birth in 1961. Creating new identities for CIA non-official cover operatives has arguably never been easier. Thank Zuck, spies. Thank Zuck.

The CIA wants to spy on you through your TV

A Sony internet TV: The rise of ‘connected’ devices in the home offers spies a window into people’s lives – CIA director David Petraeus says the technologies will ‘transform’ surveillance.

  • Devices connected to internet leak information
  • CIA director says these gadgets will ‘transform clandestine tradecraft’
  • Spies could watch thousands via supercomputers
  • People ‘bug’ their own homes with web-connected devices

The CIA wants to spy on you through your TV: Agency director says it will ‘transform’ surveillance

Daily Mail | Mar 16, 2012

By Rob Waugh

When people download a film from Netflix to a flatscreen, or turn on web radio, they could be alerting unwanted watchers to exactly what they are doing and where they are.

Spies will no longer have to plant bugs in your home – the rise of ‘connected’ gadgets controlled by apps will mean that people ‘bug’ their own homes, says CIA director David Petraeus.

The CIA claims it will be able to ‘read’ these devices via the internet – and perhaps even via radio waves from outside the home.

Everything from remote controls to clock radios can now be controlled via apps – and chip company ARM recently unveiled low-powered, cheaper chips which will be used in everything from fridges and ovens to doorbells.


HULU Commercials are Brutally Honest (video)

The resultant chorus of ‘connected’ gadgets will be able to be read like a book – and even remote-controlled, according to CIA CIA Director David Petraeus, according to a recent report by Wired’s ‘Danger Room’ blog.

Petraeus says that web-connected gadgets will ‘transform’ the art of spying – allowing spies to monitor people automatically without planting bugs, breaking and entering or even donning a tuxedo to infiltrate a dinner party.

‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,’ said Petraeus.

‘Particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft. Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters –  all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing.’

Petraeus was speaking to a venture capital firm about new technologies which aim to add processors and web connections to previously  ‘dumb’ home appliances such as fridges, ovens and lighting systems.

This week, one of the world’s biggest chip companies, ARM, has unveiled a new processor built to work inside ‘connected’ white goods.

The ARM chips are smaller, lower-powered and far cheaper than previous processors – and designed to add the internet to almost every kind of electrical appliance.

It’s a concept described as the ‘internet of things’.

Futurists think that one day ‘connected’ devices will tell the internet where they are and what they are doing at all times – and will be mapped by computers as precisely as Google Maps charts the physical landscape now.

Privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned of how information such as geolocation data can be misused – but as more and more devices connect, it’s clear that opportunities for surveillance will multiply.

Senators: Citizens would be “stunned” to learn what the government believes it can get away with under Patriot Act

RT | Mar 16, 2012

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (AFP Photo / Chip Somodevilla)

Horrified with the way the US government uses the Patriot Act against its own people, two senators have been trying to make these practices public for years. Tired of being ignored, they’re now taking their fight against secret programs to public.

Two US senators wrote the attorney general of the United States this week, urging the federal government to give the American public evidence explaining how the Patriot Act has been interpreted since signed into law in 2001.

In a joint letter to Attorney General Eric Holder sent Thursday, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado) plead with the government to provide the American people with the facts behind what the Patriot Act can let America’s top investigators do. The lawmakers, who have rallied for disclosure of these details for more than two years, say citizens would be “stunned” to learn what the government believes it can get away with under the law.


Government Confirms That It Has Secret Interpretation of Patriot Act Spy Powers

The controversial USA Patriot Act was hastily signed into legislation after the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks under the guise of a being a necessity for preventing future terrorist efforts, but for over a decade since the law has become notorious for its ability to stick federal eyes into seemingly every aspect of the American public in the name of counterterrorism. Although the government has gone on the record to downplay the constitutionally-damning powers they are granted under the law, Senators Wyden and Udall say it is time that the feds fulfill the demands of millions of concerned Americans and discuss in detail what they can do under the act — and what they’ve already done.

Wydell and Udall are specifically calling on Holder to provide information about how the government has interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which grants government officials with certain clearance to obtain “tangible things” deemed “relevant” to issues of terrorism. While that much is clear, write the senators, how the government goes about abiding by it “has been the subject of secret legal interpretations,” which they add “are contained in classified opinions” that are not made available to much of Congress, let alone members of the general public.

“We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215,” add the senators. “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when they public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”

The Justice Department has in their own defense said that disclosing details on certain interpretations could be detrimental to national security, an issue to which the senators acknowledge. “We believe that is entirely legitimate for government agencies to keep certain information secret,” write the lawmakers.The argument being made by Wyden and Udall, however, is that the government is letting itself perceive the law in a way which not only are Americans completely oblivious to, but Americans are also under the false impression that matters are marvelously different.

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