DOJ Issues Plan on Cyber Threats, Foreign Meddling

The report includes the first public description of how DOJ will respond to foreign influence operations like Russia’s 2016 election meddling. “That policy reflects an effort to articulate neutral principles so that when the issue that the government confronted in 2016 arises again — as it surely will — there will be a framework to address it,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The Justice Department issued a wide-ranging report describing the cyber threats facing the U.S. and the department’s tactics for investigating, disrupting and deterring those risks, Politico reports. The report contains the first public description of how the DOJ will assess and respond to foreign influence operations like Russia’s 2016 election meddling. “That policy reflects an effort to articulate neutral principles so that when the issue that the government confronted in 2016 arises again — as it surely will — there will be a framework to address it,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at the Aspen Security Forum.The  report describes a range of challenges hampering the government’s ability to fight traditional cybercrime and recommends possible solutions.

The challenge that receives the most attention is encryption and other technological impediments to accessing investigative data. The spread of easy-to-use, often-invisible encryption “poses a significant impediment to the investigation of most types of criminal activity,” the report warns. A lengthy chapter on foreign influence operations describes five categories of meddling, from hacking election infrastructure to spreading disinformation. It lays out a policy for disclosing foreign meddling investigations to their targets, tech companies whose platforms are involved, lawmakers and the public. This meddling “may violate a number of federal laws on which the Department may base criminal investigations and prosecutions,” the report says, but DOJ is “also considering whether new criminal statutes aimed more directly at this type of activity are needed.” At the Aspen event, Rosenstein said the report underscored how DOJ “must continually adapt criminal justice and intelligence tools to combat hackers and other cybercriminals.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Alan Hanson Leaving as Top Trump Aide at DOJ

Alan Hanson, the top Trump administration official at the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, is moving to the Transportation Department. He’ll be replaced by Laura Rogers, a former San Diego prosecutor who now directs DOJ’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART Office).

Alan Hanson, the top Trump administration official at the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), is moving to the Transportation Department.

Alan Hansen

Alan Hanson. Photo courtesy DOJ

Hanson will be replaced by Laura Rogers, a former San Diego prosecutor who now directs DOJ’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART Office).

SMART is a major component of OJP, which administers grants to state and local criminal justice agencies. OJP also includes other major Justice Department agencies, including the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

OJP has been a central player in the ongoing dispute over federal grants and “sanctuary cities.” The Trump administration wants to prevent many grants from going to jurisdictions that do not support the administration’s tough stance against illegal immigration. The issue is being fought out in court.

Hanson sent news of his departure to fellow employees in an email, calling it “bittersweet news” that he was asked by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to serve as her deputy chief of staff.

Hanson’s last day as Acting Assistant Attorney General is Friday. In his departure message, he cited his agency’s accomplishments in the last eighteen months “to strengthen our violence reduction programs, improve officer safety, enhance victim services, and support critical public safety needs, such as combatting the opioid crisis.”

Laura Rogers

Laura Rogers

DOJ has not made a formal announcement of the change. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General, but the administration has not nominated anyone for the position. Several key DOJ positions have not been confirmed by the Senate.

Rogers leads the administration of standards for states under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) and oversees $15 million in annual grants. She was the founding director of the SMART Office when it was established in 2006.

Before taking that job, Rogers served on the National Review Board of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2011–15, where she worked on the revision of the Catholic Church’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Rogers began her legal career in 1988 as a prosecutor for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, where she spent more than a decade specializing in the prosecution of child homicide, including shaking baby syndrome and child sexual abuse. In 1999, she joined the National District Attorneys Association’s National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, where she handled a variety of issues involving child abuse cases.

The departing Hanson joined DOJ shortly after President Trump was inaugurated after 17 years working on Capitol Hill. He had been working principally for Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), now chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Before assisting Shelby, Hanson was legislative director for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), for whom Hanson has been working since Sessions became Attorney General under Trump.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau chief of The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Criminal Justice Research Expands in NIJ’s 50th Year

David Muhlhausen, director of the Justice Department’s research agency, predicted at a Washington DC meeting that research will play “an ever more important role in how the criminal justice field operates.” The National Institute of Justice gave $221 million in grants last year.

Research will play “an ever more important role in how the criminal justice field operates,” says National Institute of Justice (NIJ) director David Muhlhausen.

Muhlhausen, who was appointed to NIJ last year by President Trump, made the prediction last week as current and former agency leaders gathered to mark the 50th anniversary of federal anticrime research.

NIJ was established in part as a result of a 1967 report by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, which urged more anti-crime aid from the federal government to state and local justice systems.

David Mulhausen

NIJ Director David Muhlhausen

Last year, the agency awarded nearly $221 million in grants, compared with $2.9 million in its first year, which amounts to $21.4 million in today’s dollars. One grant in that inaugural year was for a paltry $45.

Muhlhausen said last week that, “As our ability to collect and analyze data continues to improve, we will see an increase in the number of research studies and evaluations conducted as randomized controlled trials.”

The director added, “Over the past decade, the evidence-based movement has
begun to take hold in criminal justice. Over the next 50 years, I see data, evidence, and research becoming not just a tool for criminal justice practitioners, but an integral and indispensable part of all criminal justice operations.”

Two former NIJ directors, James K. (Chips) Stewart from the Reagan administration and John Laub from the Obama administration, also addressed the anniversary gathering.

Stewart recalled that at the time of his nomination as NIJ director in 1982, policymakers in Washington generally had a poor impression of the impact of social science research on criminal justice. They often quoted an early-1970s paper by Robert Martinson that concluded “nothing works” to fight crime.

Stewart, a former police officer himself, took the view that NIJ could help police, courts, and corrections agencies around the U.S. verify what approaches do work.

An early experiment supported by NIJ was an examination in Newark, N.J., and Houston by criminologist Lawrence Sherman on how police officers could make a measurable difference in local communities’ sense of safety, Stewart recalled. Crime dropped in the areas studied. The study was received skeptically in Congress, many of whose members favored sending more offenders to prison as the main response to rising crime rates, Stewart said.

Stewart cited several NIJ-supported research projects that had practical results, such as the development of “hot spots” policing in which officers concentrated on proved high-crime areas, requiring drug testing for suspects who were released pending trial, improving body armor that saved many police officers’ lives, and promoting less-than-lethal alternatives than firearms for police use of force.

He hailed the development of DNA evidence analysis, which both identified suspects who had eluded arrest and freed suspects who were mistakenly accused and convicted.

Stewart, who now is based at CNA, a Virginia-based nonprofit research and analysis organization, suggested that NIJ make its future research agenda “more outcome-focused.”

Among questions that deserve more research, he said, are why crime hasdropped in many cities but increased in some, like Chicago and Philadelphia, and how former police chief Bill Bratton was able to help decrease crime both in New York City and Los Angeles.

Stewart urged studying how Camden, N.J., which once was crime-plagued, has seen rates of lawbreaking down and attracted business investments. Police Chief Scott Thompson, who also spoke at the NIJ anniversary, has assigned 80 percent of patrol officers to work in the community and has only 20 percent responding to 911 calls, Stewart said.

Laub, the former NIJ director who returned to his post as a criminologist at the University of Maryland, told the anniversary event that, “Science – not intuition or gut instinct – needs to inform justice policies, practices, and programs.” He cited several subjects on which intuition was wrong: “If you reduce crime, you will reduce fear of crime … As the severity of punishment goes up, crime will go down … (and) boot camps will reduce delinquency and crime.”

Laub urged NIJ to focus on three major areas: “the nature of crime, the causes of
crime, and the response to crime.” He backs the notion of “translational criminology,” meaning that, “If we want to prevent, reduce, and manage crime, scientific discoveries must be translated into policy and practice.”

Laub noted that two of the biggest developments of recent decades—the major increase in prison populations and the decline in crime rates—had no research portfolio at NIJ when he arrived in 2010.

NIJ supported several projects to address these issues, including a National Academies of Sciences study of the causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration, a roundtable on crime trends, and research on such subjects as race, crime, and victimization; the victim-offender overlap; police legitimacy, and swift and certain criminal sanctions.

The federal agency has funded an Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety at Harvard, in which “the leading police executives and researchers come together on a regular basis to tackle the major issues facing the field.”

NIJ also is backing an Executive Session on Community Corrections at Harvard.

Laub concluded that NIJ must “do all it can to promote evidence-based policies within the federal government” and to fund “empirical research to inform DOJ policies on matters such as immigration and crime, crime trends, drug use and crime, forensic sciences, and sentencing.” The agency “should strive to be bold and tackle the hard problems,” he said.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington Bureau Chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Sessions Gets Backing from Trump’s U.S. Attorneys

The Senate has confirmed 65 of Mr. Trump’s U.S. Attorney nominees, eight more than the Obama administration at this point. They are key to supporting Attorney
General Jeff Sessions’ law-and-order platform.

President Trump’s drive to install federal judges has drawn significant attention, but also critical is the administration’s push to fill the ranks of U.S. Attorney offices, the Wall Street Journal reports. The methodical installation of U.S. Attorneys has helped Attorney General Jeff Sessions implement his law-and-order platform. As the top federal law enforcement officers in their districts, U.S. Attorneys decide which cases to prioritize for investigation and prosecution. Early in Sessions’ tenure, he asked 46 U.S. Attorneys from the Obama era to resign on short notice. Since then, the Senate has confirmed 65 of Mr. Trump’s U.S. Attorney nominees, eight more than the Obama administration at this point.

Trump, like President Obama at the same time in his presidency, has the advantage of a Senate controlled by his own party, and top Republicans have made it a priority to confirm the president’s judicial and prosecutorial nominees. Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior noted that Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, have both served as U.S. Attorneys, Sessions in Alabama and Rosenstein in Maryland. “Having served in that role themselves, the attorney general and deputy attorney general know how critical United States Attorneys are to battling violent crime, combating the opioid epidemic, and making their communities a safer place,” Prior said. Critics complain about the lack of diversity of Trump’s picks. The president has nominated seven women to serve as U.S. Attorneys; Obama had chosen 18 women by this point. The administration has nominated female and minority U.S. Attorneys to some of the highest-profile offices, said a White House spokeswoman, including Jessie Liu in the District of Columbia, Ariana Fajardo Orshan in the Southern District of Florida, and Erin Nealy Cox in the Northern District of Texas.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Attorneys Are Asked to Review Kavanaugh Papers

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asks 93 U.S. Attorneys for help in checking Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s paper trail. “It’s flat-out wrong to have career federal prosecutors engaged in a political process like the vetting of a Supreme Court nominee,” said Christopher Hunter, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked federal prosecutors to help review the government documents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, the New York Times reports. While the Justice Department has helped on previous Supreme Court nominations, department lawyers in Washington, D.C., typically carry out that task, not prosecutors who pursue criminal investigations nationwide. Rosenstein asked each of the 93 U. S. attorneys to provide up to three federal prosecutors “who can make this important project a priority for the next several weeks.” Names were to be submitted to Mr. Rosenstein’s office by the end of Wednesday. In years of public service — including work for the independent counsel investigation of President Bill Clinton, on the 2000 Florida recount and as a White House aide to George W. Bush — Kavanaugh generated a lengthy paper trail. That had Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressing concern that it might be used against him in his confirmation hearings.

Former law enforcement officials described Rosenstein’s directive as a troubling precedent. “It’s flat-out wrong to have career federal prosecutors engaged in a political process like the vetting of a Supreme Court nominee,” said Christopher Hunter, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor who is running for Congress. “It takes them away from the mission they’re supposed to be fulfilling, which is effective criminal justice enforcement.” While federal prosecutors have not been tapped to help with recent nominations, including Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, “the scope of the production of executive branch documents we’ve been asked for is many, many times as large,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Benczkowski Confirmed as DOJ Criminal Division Chief

The Senate voted 51-48 to confirm Brian Benczkowski to head the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, ending an 18-month delay in his confirmation. Benczkowski, a Justice Department veteran who held top posts in the George W. Bush administration, was criticized for is legal work for a Russian bank.

The Senate voted 51-48 on Wednesday to confirm Brian Benczkowski to head the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, ending an 18-month delay in his confirmation, NPR reports. Benczkowski, a Justice Department veteran who held top posts in the George W. Bush administration, languished for months as critics raised questions about his legal work for a Russian bank and his close ties to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “At a time like this — with surging violent crime and an unprecedented drug epidemic — this position is especially important,” Sessions said. (As Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman noted, it is dubious to assert that violent crime is surging.)

Senate Democrats had urged the White House to withdraw the nomination, citing “poor judgment,” after Benczkowski acknowledged briefly performing legal work for Alfa Bank, which has ties to Russian government officials, in 2017. “At a time when we need the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division to help uncover, prevent, and deter Russian interference in our democracy, Mr. Benczkowski’s choices so far have not inspired confidence that he is the right person to lead that fight,” wrote Senate Judiciary Committee members Richard Durbin of Illinois and Dianne Feinstein of California. Benczkowski has no prosecutorial experience, but he played a major behind-the-scenes role in managing the daily affairs of the Justice Department late in the Bush administration. He also led the transition team at DOJ for the incoming Trump era.

from https://thecrimereport.org

DOJ Reopens Investigation of Emmett Till Killing

The federal government has reopened its investigation into the slaying of Emmett Till, the black teenager whose brutal killing in Mississippi helped inspire the civil rights movement more than 60 years ago. A book last year quotes a white woman, Carolyn Donham, as acknowledging that she wasn’t truthful when she testified that Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances at a store in 1955.

The federal government has reopened its investigation into the slaying of Emmett Till, the black teenager whose brutal killing in Mississippi helped inspire the civil rights movement more than 60 years ago, the Associated Press reports. The Justice Department told Congress in a report in March it is reinvestigating Till’s slaying in Money, Ms., in 1955 after receiving “new information.” The case was closed in 2007 with authorities saying the suspects were dead; a state grand jury didn’t file any new charges. A book published last year, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” says a key figure in the case acknowledged lying about events preceding the slaying of the 14-year-old youth from Chicago. The book, by Timothy Tyson, quotes a white woman, Carolyn Donham, as acknowledging during a 2008 interview that she wasn’t truthful when she testified that Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances at a store in 1955.

Two white men — Donham’s then-husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam — were charged with murder but acquitted in the slaying of Till, who had been staying with relatives in northern Mississippi at the time. The men later confessed to the crime in a magazine interview, but weren’t retried. Both are now dead. Donham, who turns 84 this month, lives in Raleigh, N.C. A man who came to the door at her residence declined to comment about the FBI reopening the investigation. Paula Johnson, co-director of an academic group that reviews unsolved civil rights slayings, said she can’t think of anything other than Tyson’s book that could have prompted the Justice Department to reopen the investigation.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Scott Schools, Highest Career DOJ Lawyer, is Leaving

Schools, the latest major departure at the Justice Department, has played a critical role in some of the most important and sensitive issues. This year, he recommended that then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe be fired for a “lack of candor” in an internal investigation.

Scott Schools, the highest-ranking career lawyer at the U.S. Justice Department, is planning to leave the Justice Department at the end of the week, NPR reports. he job title for Schools — associate deputy attorney general — belied his importance as a strategic counselor and repository of institutional memory and ethics. Schools has played a critical role in some of the most important and sensitive issues in the department. This year, Schools recommended that then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe be fired for a “lack of candor” in an internal investigation. Earlier, he advised former acting Attorney General Sally Yates about the boundaries of her congressional testimony in early 2016.

“Scott has provided invaluable leadership and counsel in his years at the department, and his service is an example to all,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “He will be greatly missed, and I wish him the best in his future endeavors.” Schools is the latest departure from a Justice Department battered by political attacks over its handling of the 2016 Hillary Clinton email investigation and more recently the Russia investigation. Its previous third-in-command, Rachel Brand, resigned this year. Nominees to run the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Civil Rights Division and Environmental and Natural Resources Division have not been confirmed in the Senate. As for Schools, Slate.com called him “the most important unknown person in D.C.” Schools began his career as a prosecutor in South Carolina, rising to become a U.S. Attorney there and in San Francisco, where he signed off on charges against baseball phenom Barry Bonds.

from https://thecrimereport.org

DOJ Releases Grant Money After Sanctuary Cities Ruling

The U.S. Justice Department has begun distributing nearly $200 million in anticrime grants to states and localities as a result of a federal appeals court decision lifting a national injunction relating to sanctuary cities.

The U.S. Justice Department has begun distributing nearly $200 million in anticrime grants to states and localities as a result of a federal appeals court decision lifting a national injunction relating to sanctuary cities. As reported earlier by Politico, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Tuesday temporarily narrowed the scope of an injunction that blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to withhold grants from cities deemed not to be cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

DOJ called the court order “a victory for public safety,” saying that hundreds of jurisdictions are making “the common sense commitment to help keep criminal aliens off their streets rather than endanger public safety by releasing them back into the community to further perpetrate crimes.” The department then began to issue funds under the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program to places that are cooperating on immigration policy. Reviews of some applications are ongoing. The National Criminal Justice Association, which represents states and localities, said, “The release of this money will allow the states to continue the important Byrne JAG- funded work going on across the country.” Lists of the released funds can be found here and here.

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Women Still a Minority in Federal Law Enforcement

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that in 2016, women comprised just 16 percent of criminal investigators employed at key agencies like the FBI and DEA, even though women account for 57 percent of the rest of the agencies’ workforce.

Female FBI agents, DEA agents, ATF agents and deputy marshals are still distinct minorities in the ranks of law enforcement, says a new audit that found women are rarely promoted to key jobs at the nation’s premier law enforcement agencies, reports the Washington Post. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a report Tuesday detailing stark differences between how women and men are employed in federal law enforcement. In 2016, women comprised just 16 percent of criminal investigators employed at the agencies — even though women account for 57 percent of the rest of the agencies’ workforce.

Within the work cultures of those agencies, criminal investigators are widely regarded as the most important and influential employees, and the ones most likely to receive big promotions. The numbers vary by agency. At the FBI, about 1 in 5  agents are women. The ratio is about 1 in 10 for deputy marshals. Women dominate other parts of federal law enforcement agencies. For instance, 84 percent of human resources specialists and more than half of intelligence analysts are women. “We found that a majority of male staff, but a minority of female staff, felt their component was gender equitable and/or that gender equity was improving,” the report said. “Specifically, female criminal investigators believed that there was ongoing gender discrimination in their agencies or offices. A significant number of women across agencies and position types reported in our survey, interviews, and focus groups that they had experienced gender discrimination and differing treatment in some form, including in promotions and other workplace opportunities.” Auditors were troubled that both men and women at law enforcement agencies reported a general belief that “personnel decisions were driven more by ‘who you know’ than merit,” the report said.

from https://thecrimereport.org