Posts tagged ‘Justice Department’

NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System – Government – State & Local – Informationweek

NYC, Microsoft Team On Huge Surveillance System – Government – State & Local – Informationweek.

«««With an eye to fighting crime and terrorism, Domain Awareness System will cull data from closed-circuit TV cameras, radiation detectors, and license plate readers around the city.

By Dan Taylor
August 09, 2012 09:29 AM

Mission Intelligence: NRO’s Newest Spy Satellites
Mission Intelligence: NRO’s Newest Spy Satellites
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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled Wednesday a new surveillance system, developed in partnership with Microsoft, that incorporates information from license plate readers, street cameras, and other sensors distributed around the city.

The new Domain Awareness System will pull in data from some 3,000 closed-circuit television cameras in lower and midtown Manhattan, 2,600 radiation detectors distributed to New York Police Department (NYPD) officers on patrol, and 100 license plate readers on bridges, tunnels, streets, and city police cars.

The system, which will support crime prevention and counterterrorism, will relay information “so it can be analyzed and acted upon” by the NYPD, Bloomberg said. The technology has a role “in fighting everyday crime,” he said.

According to a joint statement by city officials and Microsoft, the system was developed “by police officers for police officers.” Its capabilities include real-time alerts and the ability to display data on maps of the city. Cameras can be programmed to sound an alarm if they spot suspicious activity, such as an unattended package or vehicle parked in front of a building.

New York police commissioner Ray Kelly said the system “allows us to connect the dots” by providing access to crime records, 911 calls, license-plate registration, video, and other data sources.

[ Learn about proposed legislation to bring privacy laws up to speed with law enforcement requests in the age of mobile and cloud. Cloud Privacy Update Tackled By Lawmakers. ]

Microsoft worked with the NYPD’s Intelligence Division and Counter-Terrorism Bureau over several years to develop the Domain Awareness System. Depending on how it performs, the system may be offered to other municipalities.

In a unique business relationship, Microsoft will pay New York 30% of revenue on sales of the system to other cities. That could potentially let New York recoup its expenses and “maybe even make a few bucks,” Bloomberg said.

Contributing writer Dan Taylor is managing editor of Inside the Navy.

The Office of Management and Budget demands that federal agencies tap into a more efficient IT delivery model. The new Shared Services Mandate issue of InformationWeek Government explains how they’re doing it. Also in this issue: Uncle Sam should develop an IT savings dashboard that shows the returns on its multibillion-dollar IT investment. (Free registration required.)

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BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING! George Orwell’s novel “1984” has finally come to pass albeit a few years late. Why don’t we have massive demonstrations or at the least some expression of concern? Do we no longer live in America?

Every day our privacy is eroded as companies and well-meaning politicians take our private information and our daily commute and use it for their own purposes, generally “for OUR protection!’ And we allow it! All of us!

We have become a nation of zombies, unless something directly affects something we have undertaken we ACCEPT whatever we are told that we MUST do to access some website or travel to some place we have gone for generations without our presence being detected and tracked.

Children can be forgiven such oversights due to their lack of knowledge and experience on what this means but for the rest of the adult population has it become the norm to turn a blind, foolish eye to these things? What kind of a country are we allowing to exist for future generations?
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4 days ago

Too true. Next generation of car diagnostics will track you. Drones will track you. So many more examples.

And as far as future generations go, keep in mind most of them go to schools where they have to pass through metal detectors every day, have no expectation of privacy, can be searched anytime for no reason, and are around armed guards in the halls at all times.

A whole generation is being trained and conditioned to accept these conditions as normal, and, indeed, ‘safe.’ When large numbers of this generation start to vote I worry deeply about what they will see as ‘not a problem,’ and what type of society we’ll have then. We might long for the days we have now, which is pretty depressing.
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4 days ago

I don’t know what Bloomberg is thinking. I would assume that this will end up costing New Yorkers millions in legal fees. This is just another of his wild ideas. I am so glad I do not live in NY. Mistaken identities can destroy your life.
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3 days ago
1 Like
Andrew Hornback

Have to wonder how long it’ll be before NYPD enters into a deal with Simon Cowell to produce a TV series based on the crazy stuff that happens in this city on a daily basis. I can see it now… coming soon on (insert basc cable channel here) “New York’s Got Crazy”

Joking aside – I’ve seen systems like this before, getting installed to protect businesses (casinos) or government institutions. I know that London has a system with a similar theory in place. However, I’d have to wonder if there is any kind of disclaimer or waiver that people would have to sign in order to show that they’re under surveillence when they come into Manhattan?

And speaking of signs… how long before you see “Welcome to Manhattan – Smile, you’re being watched” or “Welcome to Brooklyn – Cameras? We don’t need no stinkin’ cameras!”

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
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3 days ago

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Analysis: Holder, top DOJ lawyers were partners with big banks

Analysis: Holder, top DOJ lawyers were partners with big banks


(Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, were partners for years at a Washington law firm that represented a Who’s Who of big banks and other companies at the center of alleged foreclosure fraud, a Reuters inquiry shows.

The firm, Covington & Burling, is one of Washington’s biggest white shoe law firms. Law professors and other federal ethics experts said that federal conflict of interest rules required Holder and Breuer to recuse themselves from any Justice Department decisions relating to law firm clients they personally had done work for.

Both the Justice Department andCovington declined to say if either official had personally worked on matters for the big mortgage industry clients. Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Holder and Breuer had complied fully with conflict of interest regulations, but she declined to say if they had recused themselves from any matters related to the former clients.

Reuters reported in December that under Holder and Breuer, the Justice Department hasn’t brought any criminal cases against big banks or other companies involved in mortgage servicing, even though copious evidence has surfaced of apparent criminal violations in foreclosure cases.

The evidence, including records from federal and state courts and local clerks’ offices around the country, shows widespread forgery, perjury, obstruction of justice, and illegal foreclosures on the homes of thousands of active-duty military personnel.

In recent weeks the Justice Department has come under renewed pressure from members of Congress, state and local officials and homeowners’ lawyers to open a wide-ranging criminal investigation of mortgage servicers, the biggest of which have been Covington clients. So far Justice officials haven’t responded publicly to any of the requests.

While Holder and Breuer were partners at Covington, the firm’s clients included the four largest U.S. banks – Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo & Co – as well as at least one other bank that is among the 10 largest mortgage servicers.


Servicers perform routine mortgage maintenance tasks, including filing foreclosures, on behalf of mortgage owners, usually groups of investors who bought mortgage-backed securities.

Covington represented Freddie Mac, one of the nation’s biggest issuers of mortgage backed securities, in enforcement investigations by federal financial regulators.

A particular concern by those pressing for an investigation is Covington’s involvement with Virginia-based MERS Corp, which runs a vast computerized registry of mortgages. Little known before the mortgage crisis hit, MERS, which stands forMortgage Electronic Registration Systems, has been at the center of complaints about false or erroneous mortgage documents.

Court records show that Covington, in the late 1990s, provided legal opinion letters needed to create MERS on behalf of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and several other large banks. It was meant to speed up registration and transfers of mortgages. By 2010, MERS claimed to own about half of all mortgages in the U.S. — roughly 60 million loans.

But evidence in numerous state and federal court cases around the country has shown that MERS authorized thousands of bank employees to sign their names as MERS officials. The banks allegedly drew up fake mortgage assignments, making it appear falsely that they had standing to file foreclosures, and then had their own employees sign the documents as MERS “vice presidents” or “assistant secretaries.”

Covington in 2004 also wrote a crucial opinion letter commissioned by MERS, providing legal justification for its electronic registry. MERS spokeswoman Karmela Lejarde declined to comment on Covington legal work done for MERS.

It isn’t known to what extent if any Covington has continued to represent the banks and other mortgage firms since Holder and Breuer left. Covington declined to respond to questions from Reuters. A Covington spokeswoman said the firm had no comment.

Several lawyers for homeowners have said that even if Holder and Breuer haven’t violated any ethics rules, their ties to Covington create an impression of bias toward the firms’ clients, especially in the absence of any prosecutions by the Justice Department.

O. Max Gardner III, a lawyer who trains other attorneys to represent homeowners in bankruptcy court foreclosure actions, said he attributes the Justice Department’s reluctance to prosecute the banks or their executives to the Obama White House’s view that it might harm the economy.

But he said that the background of Holder and Breuer at Covington — and their failure to act on foreclosure fraud or publicly recuse themselves — “doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Federal ethics regulations generally require new government officials to recuse themselves for one year from involvement in matters involving clients they personally had represented at their former law firms.

President Obama imposed additional restrictions on appointees that essentially extended the ban to two years. For Holder, that ban would have expired in February 2011, and in April for Breuer. Rules also require officials to avoid creating the appearance of a conflict.

Schmaler, the Justice Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that “The Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General Breuer have conformed with all financial, legal and ethical obligations under law as well as additional ethical standards set by the Obama Administration.”

She said they “routinely consult” the department’s ethics officials for guidance. Without offering specifics, Schmaler said they “have recused themselves from matters as required by the law.”

Senior government officials often move to big Washington law firms, and lawyers from those firms often move into government posts. But records show that in recent years the traffic between the Justice Department and Covington & Burling has been particularly heavy. In 2010, Holder’s deputy chief of staff, John Garland, returned to Covington, as did Steven Fagell, who was Breuer’s deputy chief of staff in the criminal division.

The firm has on its web site a page listing its attorneys who are former federal government officials. Covington lists 22 from the Justice Department, and 12 from U.S. Attorneys offices, the Justice Department’s local federal prosecutors’ offices around the country.

As Reuters reported in 2011, public records show large numbers of mortgage promissory notes with apparently forged endorsements that were submitted as evidence to courts.

There also is evidence of almost routine manufacturing of false mortgage assignments, documents that transfer ownership of mortgages between banks or to groups of investors. In foreclosure actions in courts mortgage assignments are required to show that a bank has the legal right to foreclose.

In an interview in late 2011, Raymond Brescia, a visiting professor at Yale Law Schoolwho has written about foreclosure practices said, “I think it’s difficult to find a fraud of this size on the U.S. court system in U.S. history.”

Holder has resisted calls for a criminal investigation since October 2010, when evidence of widespread “robo-signing” first surfaced. That involved mortgage servicer employees falsely signing and swearing to massive numbers of affidavits and other foreclosure documents that they had never read or checked for accuracy.


Gov. Jerry Brown plans $1 billion in prison cuts

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to cut state prison spending next fiscal year for the first time in nearly a decade, a departure from the goals of recent administrations, which consistently increased corrections spending and pushed for prison expansion.

Brown’s budget would save California $1.1 billion on housing inmates and hundreds of millions more by allowing the state to halt some prison construction – savings largely due to his administration’s recent overhaul of the state’s criminal justice system.

General fund spending on prisons nearly doubled under Brown’s Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, from $5.2 billion in 2004 to $9.5 billion in 2011, when Brown, a Democrat, took office. The increase in spending was largely caused by an exploding inmate population and a court order to improve medical care in prisons.

The general fund is backed by statewide taxes and pays for most of the government’s basic programs, including schools, police, welfare services and other programs. A cut in prison spending makes more dollars available for other programs.

“We’re knocking it down, and we’ll knock it down further,” Brown said Friday of the prison budget. “A lot of the problems come from the fact that they built (too many) prisons in 20 years – it was too fast, they didn’t know what they were doing, and now we have to clean up that mess. We made good progress the first year.”
$1 billion savings

Under Brown’s spending proposal, released Jan. 5, general fund spending on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would decline from this year’s budget of $9.8 billion to $8.7 billion, largely because the state prison population has fallen nearly 1,000 a week since Oct. 1, when the state shifted responsibility for lower level offenders to county law enforcement, a policy known as realignment.

“I don’t think there’s any question we’ve turned a corner here … just by the fact that we are significantly reducing the prison population,” said Daniel Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, a nonprofit that conducts policy analysis on criminal justice issues.

But Republican Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, a former parole board chairman who has been a vocal critic of realignment, predicted the savings would not last, particularly without more investment in rehabilitative services for criminals. He said that counties will ultimately have to raise local taxes to fully pay for realignment, eliminating any savings for taxpayers.

“It’s frankly not a long-run savings for the state,” said Nielsen, of Gerber (Tehama County). “Corrections spending will go down a little and then creep back up.”

Just one year ago, California was grappling with a court order to reduce its prison population by 33,000 inmates and was moving forward with 13 construction projects to expand prison capacity.

Now, the prison population is at 130,000, a decrease of 11,000 in six months. State officials met the first benchmark set by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce the prison population and say they are on track to meet the next one as well, as thousands of offenders that would have flowed into the overcrowded system are staying in county jails instead and being supervised by local probation officials rather than state parole officers.

In addition to halting construction projects, Brown next year wants to begin phasing out the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice and place the state’s most violent youth offenders in county facilities. And after years of cuts to rehabilitation programs in prisons, Brown wants lawmakers to restore about $100 million in funding for drug treatment, education and other services.

The governor’s budget proposal, like most criminal justice issues, has prompted mixed reactions.
Worries over funding