FBI used encrypted Anom app in international crime bust The FBI secretly ran an encrypted chat network that included 12,000 devices and was widely used by criminal organizations across the globe for various illegal dealings
Here we go again, another “massive bust”! Will this slow the supply of drugs to America’s streets? Of course not. The only way to do that is to reduce supply by warning about the dangers of drugs, not lame “just say no” or “egg in a frying pan” ads! Drugfree.org has some good ads.
Excerpts from the Article:
The FBI is celebrating a massive bust stemming from the global takedown of a popular encrypted chat network.
Known as Anom network, the encrypted chat network had marketed itself to criminals as a service where communications were shielded from the prying eyes of law enforcement. In fact, the network was operated by law enforcement in the U.S., Europol, and Oceania as an organized effort to round up criminals.
Anom was first seized by the police in 2018 following the takedown of encrypted phone provider Phantom Secure. Having seized the network in its infancy, law enforcement opted to let it run for several years and gather a network of what it says are hundreds of organized crime outfits. While criminals thought their conversations were secure, law enforcement was able to view and log all communications.
At the time of dismantling, the police-run Anom network had around 12,000 devices used by criminals, according to the Department of Justice. At its peak, Anom was the preferred communications method for what the FBI reckoned to be more than 300 organized crime outfits, including what the government terms as “Italian organized crime, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, and various international drug trafficking organization.”
The total tally of illicit goods seized in bust, dubbed “Operation Trojan Shield,” is staggering: 8 tons of cocaine, 22 tons of marijuana, 2 tons of methamphetamine, and negligible amounts of firearms and various narcotics ingredients.
While the government has long been against apps and services that provide encrypted communications, in this case an exception was made, as Anom was rigged to allow law enforcement the ability to eavesdrop on communications. The irony of the situation was not lost on law enforcement, which noted their advantageous position.
“This was an unprecedented operation in terms of its massive scale, innovative strategy and technological and investigative achievement,” said Randy Grossman, acting U.S. Attorney, in a DOJ statement. “Hardened encrypted devices usually provide an impenetrable shield against law enforcement surveillance and detection. The supreme irony here is that the very devices that these criminals were using to hide from law enforcement were actually beacons for law enforcement”
In addition to the FBI and DOJ, the international operation (also known as Operation Ironside) included Australian Federal Police, INTERPOL, and local police in the Netherlands, Lithuani, and Sweden.
“Operation Ironside began almost three years ago and is the Australian component of a long-term, international, covert investigation. The FBI and AFP targeted the dedicated encrypted communications platform, which was used exclusively by organized crime,” the AFP said in an announcement. “After working in close partnership on Operation Safe Cracking to take down the encrypted platform provider Phantom Secure, the AFP and FBI worked together to fill the vacuum.”
This is good, smart, policing. Obviously, Texas’ tRumpian governor does not get it!
Excerpts from the Article:
Despite being the capital of the nation’s largest Red state, Austin, Texas, is as liberally Blue as a city can be, proudly sporting the motto “KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD.” Whether weird or empathetic, Austin has made great strides toward diverting money from its police department to improve law enforcement-related functions and to address and alleviate one root cause for criminal behavior. The key here is diversion of some funding rather than actual defunding.
One major beneficial step is the diversion of about $11.9 million to fund a new forensics lab independent of the Austin Police Department (“APD”). The lab will still serve law enforcement needs – but in a neutral and unbiased manner.
While a part of APD, the forensic lab had accumulated a backlog of 4,000 sexual assault kits. When the Texas Forensic Sciences Commission discovered the lab was using unacceptable scientific practices [CLN, January 2019, p. 40], it was closed. The Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”), the state police, has been performing all needed lab services for APO since then.
In 2019, the city began to allocate funds for mental health professionals from Integral Care’s Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team to staff APD’s 911 call center. Additional funds diverted from APO will enable a fourth first-response platform separate from EMS, fire and police departments to care for citizens experiencing mental health issues. Similar programs in New Orleans, Louisiana; Eugene, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington, have had stunning success at de-escalation and costs less than armed police response. [CLN, October 2020, p. 38]
Austin’s new reformist Travis County district attorney José Garza has announced plans for bail reform and diversionary programs to assist citizens in avoiding arrests and jail time. He believes active diversion programs will help to identify and correct some root causes of crime. Garza also is creating a “do-not-call-to-testify” list to prevent untrustworthy cops from testilying at trials. This is similar to the “Brady Lists” prosecutors across the country maintain with the names of over “5,000 lying, cheating or perjurous cops … prosecutors dare not use … if they want to win their case.” [CLN, September 2019, p. 29]
Diverted funds are being used to purchase hotels to provide permanent housing for homeless people in Austin. The city council’s goal is to have permanent housing in the form of these hotels in each district. The lone dissenter is newly elected Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who also is the president of Take Back Austin, a community organization that’s pro law enforcement.
Texas Governor Gregg Abbott is threatening to have DPS patrol Austin’s streets. He also is threatening push-back measures against Austin and any other Texas cities that defund or divert funding from their police departments. In legislation labeled as an emergency bill, he proposes “freezing property tax revenue and removing annexation powers” from these cities.
You have got to wonder how so many people could be so stupid as to think they would not get arrested because of the way they were doing things! With their social media posts they might as well have been saying “please come lock us up for at least 10 years”!
Excerpts from the Article:
Federal prosecutors announced the indictment of 15 alleged members and associates of a Baltimore gang in connection with 18 killings, 27 attempted killings, witness intimidation and running street-level drug distribution “shops.”
The racketeering indictments unsealed Wednesday detail how the Triple-C Gang’s “enterprise relied on extreme violence,” acting U.S. Attorney Jon Lenzner said at a news conference Thursday. Triple-C stands for “Cruddy Conniving Crutballs” and the gang was formed in 2014 as an alternative to the Black Guerilla Family Gang, prosecutors said.
The gang’s shops in east and northeast Baltimore sold heroin, fentanyl, crack cocaine, marijuana and other controlled substances, prosecutors said. The alleged members and associates were involved in witness intimidation, shootings and killings of rival gang members and carjackings.
“The amount of criminal activity perpetrated by one gang is pretty staggering and alarming,” Lenzner said.
Members and their associates promoted the gang on social media and through rap music and also sold clothes and jewelry with its logo. Triple C members and associates posted photos and rap videos, flaunting guns, boasting of the gang’s superiority and threatening to kill those who stood in the gang’s way. Members also used social media to identify and locate victims, prosecutors said.
Triple C members supported rap artists who mentioned the gang in their lyrics and some were artists themselves. One music video on social media included lyrics saying “ain’t no Crip or no Blood, I’m Triple C baby” and featured several alleged members and associates of Triple C dancing and waving firearms, prosecutors said. Members allegedly wore clothing promoting the gang and warning against “snitching.”
The indictment is the second related to the investigation and seeks the forfeiture of any proceeds the gang made from their alleged criminal activity. If convicted, the defendants charged with racketeering face a maximum of life in prison for the racketeering conspiracy. They all face a mandatory minimum of 10 years and maximum of life in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
Ten defendants charged in the previous indictments have pleaded guilty. Officials say 14 of the 15 suspects are already in custody. The 15th is on pre-trial release and was expected to surrender Thursday.
Here it is, ten great articles. It has been called “The best overall criminal justice newsletter in America – sensible, witty, and informed”. Check it out and subscribe!
The times, and the laws, thank God, are a changin’!
Excerpts from the Article:
Drug-sniffing police dogs from around Virginia are being forced into early retirement as the state prepares to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana on July 1.
Virginia is following a trend in other states where legalization has led to K-9s being put out to pasture earlier than planned. Police dogs trained to detect the odor of marijuana will no longer be used to establish probable cause for a search.
Virginia state police are retiring 13 K-9s, while smaller police departments and sheriff’s offices are retiring one or two dogs. Most are in the process of purchasing and training new dogs to detect only illicit drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.
Another step in the right direction.
Excerpts from the Article:
Simply smelling marijuana doesn’t justify a police officer stopping and investigating someone, according to a new Maryland appeals court ruling.
In a ruling released last week, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals said police need “reasonable suspicion” that a crime is being committed to stop and question someone, and that just smelling weed doesn’t meet that standard.
Historically, the smell of marijuana provided police with the opportunity to detain, search and question a person, sometimes uncovering contraband or more serious crimes.
While possession of marijuana remains illegal in Maryland, in 2004 the state decriminalized having less than 10 grams of marijuana.
That distinction changes the way police can use the smell of marijuana in investigative stops, wrote Judge Kathryn Grill Graeff, in her opinion.
“Because possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is no longer a crime, the suspicion required to support a stop for the crime of possession of marijuana, therefore, is that the person is in possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana. And because the ‘odor of marijuana alone does not indicate the quantity, if any, of marijuana in someone’s possession,’ [citing a previous case], it cannot, by itself, provide reasonable suspicion that the person is in possession of a criminal amount of marijuana or otherwise involved in criminal activity,” wrote Graeff.
The ruling overturns a Prince George’s County case, in which a boy was patted down — and a handgun recovered from his waistband — solely based on the officer’s declaration of smelling marijuana.
This investigative stop — known as a Terry stop — involved an officer walking up and stopping a group of people. The Terry stop is different than a traffic stop, according to Michele Hall, the assistant public defender who argued at trial and in the appeals court.
“The case does not comment on the smell of marijuana and traffic stops,” said Hall. “That is a different body of case law.”
A 2019 appeals court ruling determined police could not arrest someone based on the smell of marijuana, even though they saw a joint in a car, because they failed to demonstrate reasonable suspicion that the person had a criminal amount.
A spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh declined to comment, or say whether the state would appeal the ruling.
The Whole Story:
My dear friend, Jeanie Wilson, had this published in the Delaware State News of 5/4/21.
Letter to the Editor: Tragic death brings warning that fentanyl kills
Every 7 minutes, a life is taken in the United States from illicit poisons! We need to be aware, and we need to do whatever we can to stop this silent epidemic. Delaware has a 24-hour helpline, (833) 9-HOPEDE.”
May 15 marks one year since my 23-year-old son did not wake up. Our family was devastated to lose the beloved baby of our group and even more so when we found there was an illicit substance, fentanyl, in his bloodstream.
After reading his text messages, we discovered that he had been using what he thought was Percocet purchased from “a friend.” But sadly, there was no Percocet in his toxicology screen. Instead, he was sold fentanyl pressed into a pill that looked exactly like a pharmaceutical-grade Percocet.
Fentanyl is cheap and 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin or morphine. It can be laced in everything — pills that kids are buying thinking they are Percocet or Xanax and now even Adderall. I am writing this letter to warn parents, friends and all citizens that fentanyl kills!
According to the organization Drug Induced Homicide, every 7 minutes, a life is taken in the United States from illicit poisons! We need to be aware, and we need to do whatever we can to stop this silent epidemic.
Jeannie Wilson, Dover
It’s not helpful to lock them up, but advertising should be increased to warn that pot can damage brains under age 25.
Excerpts from the Article:
As more states legalize recreational cannabis use, a large group is continuing to face marijuana-related criminalization: anyone under 21. Similar to alcohol laws, recreational adult-use cannabis laws permit anyone 21 and over to use cannabis recreationally. In practice, youth prohibition doesn’t prevent young people from using marijuana, but it does increase the policing and criminalization of Black, Brown and/or disabled young people.
For example, Colorado legalized cannabis in 2012, but youth are being summoned en masse to drug court for marijuana-related offenses. According to state data, Colorado reported a total of 1,034 marijuana-related incidents during the 2019-2020 academic year, of which 976 were court summons; 31 of the incidents were arrests while 27 were unknown.
The conclusion of a 2019 JAMA Pediatric study affirms marijuana legalization (for those 21 and over) doesn’t reduce arrests for youth, nor do youth benefit from decriminalization policies when accompanied with legalization. Although marijuana decriminalization has the potential to reduce youth arrests, this research suggests this potential is lost when a state adopts recreational legalization.
“[Cannabis] is being legalized across the nation, and yet we [don’t] just want to make it illegal for children, but create criminal penalties that are going to follow children,” explained Valerie Slater, executive director of RISE for Youth. “It makes zero sense.”
Legalization policies incorporate youth criminalization as a misguided attempt to restrict youth access and discourage youth use. It’s important to note that legalizing adult cannabis use doesn’t increase youth use or access, according to numerous studies. The Drug Policy Alliance notes that youth use has stabilized following legalization measures in Washington State, Colorado and Alaska. Youth prohibition isn’t driven by logic, though; it’s based in existing criminalizing policies originating during Ronald Regan’s era of drug policy.
“[Drug-free school zones] stem from a fear of youth getting access to drugs, which they already have access to,” Ortiz explained. “It’s also an escalating charge that can lead to being charged as an adult in most places.”
In the majority of the country, those under 18 can be transferred from juvenile drug court to adult drug court. The Sentencing Project reports that only four states — Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts and New Mexico — don’t allow children to be tried as adults for drug offenses.
Punishment for violating drug-free school zones can result in hindered educational opportunities. “Zero tolerance” policies popped up when the Anti-Drug Abuse Act (ADAA) of 1986 was signed by Reagan, explains the School Discipline Support Initiative. (Although the ADAA further specified and developed drug-free school zones, the first drug-free school zone was created under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse, Prevention and Control Act of 1970, passed by Richard Nixon.) These policies come with mandated, predetermined consequences for students. For example, the Atlanta public school system enforces immediate suspension or expulsion of any student violating its zero tolerance drug policy. Suspension and expulsion, which can result from zero tolerance policies, are also connected to higher drop-out rates, reports the American Psychological Association.
Black youth were 29.2 times more likely to be detained than white youth in 2013.
Mandatory drug treatment programs often function as yet another method of punishing youth, despite being presented as an alternative to incarceration. Since many, if not all, youth choose a drug treatment program to avoid detention, these centers rarely provide genuine rehabilitation. As Ortiz noted, court-mandated youth can also take space in drug treatment facilities that could otherwise be occupied by youth who are choosing treatment voluntarily. Plus, the cost of court-mandated treatment programs falls on youth and their families to fund.
As an increasing number of states legalize marijuana, the question of youth criminalization has repeatedly come to the fore. For example, when New Jersey recently adopted two cannabis bills — one to decriminalize existing cannabis penalties and the other to create a legal market – Gov. Phil Murphy and the state legislature clashed about the specifics of youth penalties for months. Youth criminalization is a stark racial justice issue in New Jersey, where, according to a 2017 Urban Institute report, Black youth were 29.2 times more likely to be detained than white youth in 2013.
Murphy finally agreed to impose a less harsh discipline system for minors possessing up to six ounces of cannabis. In S3565, which passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate, the first offense involves parental notification of underage possession of cannabis. For the second offense, police are to provide information about community-based services, such as “counseling, tutoring programs, mentoring services, and faith-based or other community initiatives.” If there is a third offense, the police are ordered to make referrals to said services.
The new legislation has been lauded for not relying on incarceration (although it does rely on police to play the role of social workers, a practice discouraged by the growing #DefundthePolice movement).
Laura Cohen, clinical professor of law at Rutgers University and director of the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic, stressed the importance of not involving courts.
The racist practices of the youth drug war cannot be undone through a single decimalization bill; instead, a concerted and ongoing effort will be needed to confront the drug war’s impact on youth. “For the third interaction between a young person and [the] police over the course of a two-year period, the police are supposed to make referrals to community-based services, not necessarily for drug treatment, and there are no penalties for [youth] failing to comply,” she explained. “This legislation … is intended to approach the question of cannabis use by young people as a public health issue and not as a criminal legal system issue.”
Additionally, the law doesn’t call for law enforcement intervention when possession occurs in a school setting. Instead, the school administration is supposed to handle disciplinary action.
“What I anticipate will happen now is that if students come to school with cannabis, alcohol or tobacco, that it will be dealt with through the school’s disciplinary system and not referred to law enforcement,” Cohen said.
Although law enforcement still has power to decide what type of referral a child receives after a third offense, and the system doesn’t apply to those with drug distribution charges (only possession charges), New Jersey’s new system is still considered one of the most progressive models of youth cannabis decriminalization to date.
Both Slater and Cohen praised New Jersey’s recent legislation as a model for other states. However, advocates note that the racist practices of the youth drug war cannot be undone through a single decimalization bill; instead, a concerted and ongoing effort will be needed to confront the drug war’s impact on youth.
Just part of the BILLIONS of your tax dollars wasted each year nationally due to entirely preventable prison abuse!
Excerpts from the Article:
“In the last 10 years, Minnesota counties have paid out more than $10 million in settlements and legal fees following lawsuits accusing jails of providing inadequate to non-existent health care to inmates,” KARE 11 reported in a major investigative report on October 29, 2020.
One of the major cases discussed in the story was of Todd County settling with the family of Brett Huber, Jr. for a total of $1.8 million in December 2018 after Huber, Jr. hanged himself in the county jail in June of the prior year. Brett, Jr. had a history of drug abuse and mental health issues that the suit claimed the jail failed to treat.
Brett Huber Sr. said his son was a gifted child growing up in Spearfish, South Dakota. He breezed through school with a straight A average, volunteered his services to nonprofit organizations and was active in the church. He was tall, muscular and athletic. A varsity wrestler and a certified master scuba diver. Brett, Jr. had one serious problem: an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Brett, Jr. had a job working at the state Senate. His father believed he turned to drugs as a way to fit in. He was battling with his addiction in March 2017 when he left his job at the Senate with the intent of committing himself to rehab.
Before he made it to the treatment center, Brett, Jr. went on a last bender. A police report said that Brett, Jr. showed up at an Alexandria hospital high on drugs. Before the hospital was able to get him to detox, Brett, Jr. ran out and stole a car, driving it into a pond. He then stole a second car, which he crashed on I-94. Social media video ultimately showed Brett, Jr. on top of a semi with his shirt off, howling at traffic.
Police arrested Brett, Jr. and took him to the Todd County jail. Brett, Jr. spent several weeks in the jail showing signs of instability and possible suicide before he was finally taken to CentraCare Health Clinic where he was diagnosed with a “severe episode of recurrent major depressive disorder, with psychotic features.” He was placed on antipsychotic medication and referred for a full mental evaluation.
Brett, Sr. said he visited his son regularly. Some days he appeared sane and rational and other times he seemed wild-eyed and cried through the entire visit. Concerned for his son’s health, Brett, Sr. stayed in constant contact with jail administrator Scott Wright. Wright continued to assure Brett, Sr. that his son was okay and well cared for. It was not until after Brett, Jr.’s death that the Huber family found out that Brett, Jr. was disorderly, attempted suicide on several occasions and suffered episodes of hallucinations and paranoia.
A records request as part of the lawsuit’s discovery process filed by the family’s attorney, Andy Noel, revealed Brett, Jr.’s battle with his mental health while at the county jail. It also revealed the jail’s history of problems dealing with detainees with mental health issues. The state had been previously cited for falsifying logs, failing to conduct regular well-being checks, understaffing and inadequate suicide prevention training.
The Hubers found that the security logs were falsified three times on the day Brett, Jr. hung himself, including one at the time when Brett, Jr. was already successful in strangulating himself. “I was led to believe he was in a good facility, that he was being monitored, that they were doing their job, that he wasn’t having any issues, and that the court evaluation would begin soon,” said Brett, Sr. He had the ability to make his son’s bond, but thought it best to leave Brett, Jr. in the county jail, believing it was the safest thing for his son until he could receive the treatment he needed.
Brett, Jr. is not the only person to receive inadequate care while in custody in Minnesota. Fifteen lawsuits have been filed against county jails and prisons around the state since 2015. The state’s suicide rate accounts for 60% of the deaths in custody annually, twice the national average. “It tells me, as a whole, we need to do a whole lot better at assessing suicidal ideation and risk, and then aggressively taking action to make sure we are providing the level of care and oversight and intervention necessary to prevent suicidal actions,” said Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell. (See: Huber, Sr. v. Todd County, Case No. 0:18-cv-02317, U.S.D.C. (D. Minn.).
I have seen hundreds – yes, hundreds – of articles about an inmate who died because jail intake officials did not do their job in screening the inmate for withdrawal symptoms; I bet that is what happened here.
The Whole Article:
An inmate at the Downtown Spokane County Jail died while being transported to the jail’s medical services division on Monday afternoon.
According to county spokesperson Jared Webley, the inmate became unresponsive while being transported at about noon on Monday. Staff at the jail began treating the inmate before being relieved by Spokane City Fire and AMR, but the inmate was pronounced dead at 12:30 p.m., according to Webley.
Two doses of Narcan were administered to the inmate before they died, Webley said. Spokane County Detention Services requested assistance from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, which stopped overseeing detention services in 2013, to carry out the investigation, Webley said. Major Crimes detectives and member of the Forensic Unit responded to process the scene and conduct interviews, according to Webley.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office will release the name of the inmate and their cause and manner of death “when appropriate to do so,” Webley said.
At least 10 inmates at the jail have now died since June 2017.