Sunday, April 26, 2015

DOJ updates its FOIA regulations


The Department of Justice last week published 
newly updated regulations on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, with several notable changes made in response to public comments.

Fifteen sets of comments were submitted by individual members of the public or public interest organizations after the Department released its draft FOIA regulations in 2011. In a lengthy Federal Register notice on April 3, 
the Department addressedall of the comments, and actually adopted a number of the changes recommended by public commenters.

Among the changes that were approved:

*    The revised regulations explicitly include news organizations that operate solely on the Internet as "representatives of the news media," making them exempt from search fees.

*    "The revised fee schedule includes a decrease in duplication fees due to advances in technology."

*    The revision adds language specifying that "in responding to requests for classified information, the component [of DoJ to which the request is addressed] must determine whether the information remains currently and properly classified."

Some other new provisions should make it easier to use the FOIA, including a procedure for consulting with the Department's FOIA Public Liaison in advance of making a request. 
The revised regs also incorporate a statement of policy that would "encourage discretionary releases of information whenever disclosure would not foreseeably harm an interest protected by a FOIA exemption."

It nevertheless remains true that in order to take full advantage of the tools provided by the Freedom of Information Act, it is often necessary for requesters to litigate over information that is withheld or denied.

According to 
The FOIA Project
, there were 422 Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed in federal district court last year, up from 372 the year before and 342 the year before that.

Secrecy News _ New Redress procedures if you're on the No Fly List


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2015, Issue No. 27
April 14, 2015

Secrecy News Blog:



The government will no longer refuse to confirm or deny that persons who are prevented from boarding commercial aircraft have been placed on the "No Fly List," and such persons will have new opportunities to challenge the denial of boarding, the Department of Justice announced yesterday in a court filing.

Until now, the Government refused to acknowledge whether or not an individual traveler had been placed on the No Fly List and, if so, what the basis for such a designation was. That is no longer the case, the new court filing said:

"Under the previous redress procedures, individuals who had submitted inquiries to DHS TRIP [the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program] generally received a letter responding to their inquiry that neither confirmed nor denied their No Fly status."

"Under the newly revised procedures, a U.S. person who purchases a ticket, is denied boarding at the airport, subsequently applies for redress through DHS TRIP about the denial of boarding, and is on the No Fly List after a redress review, will now receive a letter providing his or her status on the No Fly List and the option to receive and/or submit additional information."

If the individual traveler chooses to pursue the matter, DHS "will provide a second, more detailed response. This second letter will identify the specific criterion under which the individual has been placed on the No Fly List and will include an unclassified summary of information supporting the individual's No Fly List status, to the extent feasible, consistent with the national security and law enforcement interests at stake."

The new redress procedures were developed in response to legal challenges to the No Fly List procedures, which argued that the procedures were constitutionally deficient or otherwise improper. The notice of the new procedures was filed yesterday in the pending lawsuit Gulet Mohamed v. Eric H. Holder, Jr., which is one of the ongoing lawsuits over the No Fly List.

"A number of travelers who dispute any connection to terrorism have alleged that they have been denied boarding on commercial aircraft," a recent Congressional Research Service report noted. "A denial of entry can occur, for example, when a person's name and/or date of birth correspond or are similar to the identity of someone in the government's watchlist database."

The CRS report, which predates the newly announced procedures, reviewed many of the legal issues involved. See The No Fly List: Procedural Due Process and Hurdles to Litigation, April 2, 2015.

Former Texas Rep. Bruce Alger dies

U.S. Rep. Bruce Alger (center) was among the protesters who greeted vice presidential candidate Lyndon Baines Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson in November 1960 when they visited Dallas.

Bruce Alger, a provocative Republican congressman from Texas whose staunch conservative views prefigured the tea party movement decades later, and whose angry confrontation with Lyndon Johnson may have affected the outcome of the 1960 presidential election, died April 13 at
an assisted living facility in Palm Bay, Fla. He was 96.

The cause was a heart ailment, said his daughter, Jill Alger.

Alger was elected to the U.S. House in 1954 from a district that included Dallas, which was long considered a cauldron of extreme right-wing views. He was the first Republican in Congress from Texas in more than 20 years.

A one-time Princeton football player, Alger was young and energetic and drew much of his support from Republican women’s groups, which led to dramatic political consequences years later.

During his 10 years in Congress, Alger did not sponsor any significant legislation and was known mostly for the things he opposed, based on his belief in a limited government. In his first two terms, he supported the measures of President Dwight Eisenhower — a fellow Republican — only 9
percent of the time.

Alger voted against public housing, integration efforts, Medicare, subsidized school lunches and increases in Social Security. He called the Peace Corps a form of creeping socialism.

In 1963, while speaking to a consortium of conservative groups in Washington, Alger called for getting the United States out of the United Nations, driving  the communists from Cuba and banning any official recognition of communist states. He said Congress should be required to balance the budget and recommended the adoption of a “flat tax,” in which people of all income levels would pay at the same tax rate.

Many of those themes continue to be bedrock conservative principles and have underscored the growth of the tea party movement in recent years.

Alger also presaged 21st-century politics with his unwillingness to compromise. Asked about the next congressional session, he told Time magazine in January 1958:

“I foresee bitterness and hatefulness. We are going to squabble and fight and make the world think we hate each other and that we can’t solve our problems. We are going to have bigger and bigger budgets, higher taxes, more government spending at home and abroad, and more inflation accompanied by deficit financing. Happy New Year!”

Despite his outspoken rhetoric, Alger was ranked by the Washington press corps as the second-least-effective member of Congress, after Adam Clayton Powell, an embattled Democrat from New York.

As the lone Republican in the Texas delegation, Alger was isolated from his state’s most powerful political figure, Johnson, who was the Senate majority leader before becoming the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 1960.

When Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, visited Dallas less than a week before the 1960 election, Alger led a group of demonstrators, consisting largely of well-heeled women.

Brandishing a sign reading “LBJ Sold Out to Yankee Socialists,” Alger said, “We’re going to show Johnson he’s not wanted in Dallas.”

The women in the crowd, who became known as the Mink Coat Mob, accosted the Johnsons as they attempted to step out of their car. One woman grabbed Lady Bird’s white gloves and threw them in a gutter.

Later, the demonstrators surrounded the couple in the lobby of the Adolphus Hotel. Curses and spittle filled the air, and Lady Bird Johnson was struck over the head with a placard.

When Alger was asked to control the crowd, he reportedly replied, “I don’t think it is rude to show a socialist and traitor what you think of him.”

Republican Richard Nixon had been leading the statewide polls, but Alger and his followers had crossed a line of civility that was shocking even in rough-and-tumble Texas.

“The ugly incident in the Adolphus outraged thousands of Texans and many more thousands of Southerners in other states,” as columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak wrote in 1966.

The sentiment of voters turned toward John F. Kennedy, the Democratic candidate, in the final days of the campaign. Nixon later said, “Well, we lost Texas in 1960 because of that ... congressman in Dallas” — referring to Alger with a vulgar epithet.

Bruce Reynolds Alger was born June 12, 1918, in Dallas and grew up in Webster Groves, Mo. His father was a bank representative and an oil-and-gas salesman.

Alger’s only sibling, a younger sister, died in a fire during a dance recital when she was 9.

Alger was a 1940 graduate of Princeton University, where he played center on the football team. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Forces as a B-29 pilot in the Pacific. His bomber, named “Miss America ‘62” for his daughter, has been restored and is on display at Travis Air Force Base in California.

Before serving in Congress, Alger was a real estate developer in Dallas. After he lost his 1964 bid for re-election, he worked in real estate and investing in Florida and Dallas.

His first wife, the former Lucille “Lynn” Antoine, called herself a “political widow” when their marriage ended in divorce in 1961. She said the only interest she and her husband had in common was playing gin rummy, “but he quit because I beat him.”

His second wife, Priscilla Jones Alger, died in 2012 after 36 years of marriage.

Two sons from his first marriage, David Alger and Steven Alger, died in 1964 and 2012, respectively. Survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Jill Alger of The Villages, Fla.; two stepchildren, Robert Jones of Amherst, Mass., and Laura Jones of Chatham, Mass.; seven
grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Alger retired in 1990 and spent 10 years traveling around the country with his wife in an RV before settling in Barefoot Bay, Fla., in 2000.

Among Alger’s many colorful comments was this self-assessment soon after he was elected to Congress in 1954: “My ignorance of politics couldn’t be matched by anybody in politics.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

WFAA-TV broadcaster Bert Shipp dies

The FBI's hair analysis unit

The Guardian has an article about this latest scandal to hit the FBI.

And they have this image with it, which looks a lot like an enlargement from a JFK autopsy photo

The truth is that this hair analysis stuff is bunk.  It was used in cases where people were convicted and received the death penalty.  It was used it put many in prison. Despite the FBI now admitting it's al junk science the various states are not eager to hear from the people wronged by this hair analysis mumbo-jumbo. The states are not eager to have retrials.

Who is going to be held accountable for this garbage?

A Thank You to the Tarrant County District Clerk, Tom Wilder and his staff

They are doing good work in preserving and making good scan copies of important, historical documents like this available to the public online.  Hopefully, they will find more JFK assassination related documents.

See - Lost JFK Documents Reveal Rift Between State Bar and Melvin Belli.

Long-lost documents related to assassination of President John F. Kennedy are always fascinating when they are revealed—regardless of their association with a conspiracy.

And a 1966 casefile recently discovered by the Tarrant County District Clerk's office proves one thing: The State Bar of Texas hated San Francisco lawyer Melvin Belli—so much that it took steps to ensure he could never practice in the Lone Star State's courts again after defending Jack Ruby of murder in 1964.

The case file, State Bar of Texas v. Belli, was discovered earlier this month by clerks who are the process of digitizing all of county's old case files for storage purposes, said Tarrant County District Clerk Tom Wilder. Wilder said that while most paper cases of that vintage are eventually discarded, cases like Belli are saved for their historical value.

"In reading the pleadings it seemed like it was just an attempt to take a whack at Melvin Belli," Wilder said of the case file.

The pleading, filed in May of 1966 in Tarrant County's 96th District Court, was filed there because Belli apparently had a case pending in that court at the time. The pleading filed by the bar's then general counsel Davis Grant alleged that Belli was not a "reputable" attorney and therefore should not be allowed to practice in the court under the State Bar's rules of admission.

The source of the bar's ire, according to the pleadings, were the numerous colorful statements Belli gave to a hungry press after Ruby was convicted of murder for killing presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Many of the statements concerned Belli's distaste for Texas' criminal justice system—in particular Dallas District Judge Joe B. Brown, who presided over Ruby's trial.

Belli represented Ruby pro bono and unsuccessfully argued to a Dallas County jury that Ruby was legally insane at the time he shot and killed Oswald.

One of Belli's quotes, according to the pleading, included: "I think we have a good chance in the Criminal Court of Appeals. All Texas isn't like this place here. They're going to chastise this kangaroo pouch judge [Brown] who sat on this case. He didn't walk to the bench; he hopped."

Another Belli quote from the pleading: "I don't need Judge Brown's compliments. I'm sorry I shook hands. He has blood on it. He told me in private that he wouldn't have given this case up for love or money."

The bar's pleading called on Belli to answer for his statements, lest he be barred from practicing in Texas courts. The pleading had numerous news articles featuring Belli's hot quotes filed as attachments along with letter of support for the action from the American Bar Association and letters from individual Texas lawyers who did not care for Belli's behavior.

Belli was unconcerned by the pleading. According a June 1966 letter he wrote to the judge of the 96th District Court, Belli indicated that he no intention of returning to Texas to face the allegations and denied that he or his law firm had any cases pending in Texas.

"We think, in view of the ex parte publicity given upon this same matter, my appearance in the Ruby case, both the American Bar and the Texas Bar, I should reply in kind publicly in the newspapers, however, I am presently constrained so to do," Belli wrote. "This does not mean either that we are not anxious fully and publicly to contest the subject matter of the American Bar and the Texas Bar charges [they are both the same] or that we are loathe indefinitely to present our side to the public."

"The letter was thumbing his nose, saying I'm not coming back down," Wilder said of Belli, "which is typical."

According to a marking on the file, the bar's case against Belli was ultimately dismissed in 1968 for want of prosecution.

The once-forgotten Belli case file has been moved to a secure storage site, where it can be examined by permission along with other famous Tarrant County case filed —among them the murder case of wealthy Fort Worth oilman T. Cullen Davis—Wilder said.

"We're going to keep the historical paper records to the extent that we can. Just the signatures have some historically value," Wilder said. "That Belli signature would be worth some bucks at a memorabilia store."

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dan Farrell dies, took photo of JFK Jr saluting his father's coffin

Dan Farrell, whose photograph of a young John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting during the 1963 funeral ceremonies for his slain father became one of the most memorable images surrounding the Kennedy assassination, died April 13 at a hospital in Rockville Centre, N.Y. He was 84.

The cause was pneumonia, said a son, Daniel M. Farrell.

On Nov. 25, 1963, Mr. Farrell was on assignment in Washington for his newspaper, the New York Daily News, covering the funeral of President John F. Kennedy, who had been killed three days before in Dallas.

After beginning his day at the U.S. Capitol, Mr. Farrell moved to a spot across from St. Matthew’s Cathedral in downtown Washington. He stood on a crowded flatbed truck alongside scores of other photographers, about 150 feet from the cathedral’s front door.

Fifty years later, Mr. Farrell recalled the scene in an interview with the Daily News.

“It was the saddeset thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” he said.
When the mourners emerged from the cathedral, Mr. Farrell trained his Hasselblad camera on the Kennedy family. As the president’s coffin was placed on a horse-drawn caisson, his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, leaned down and said something to her son. It happened to be his third birthday.

Mr. Farrell was watching through a telephoto lens.
“She said, ‘John, salute,’ ” he recalled in 1999. “He didn’t respond at first. I took a deep breath. She said, ‘John-John, salute.’ ”

The young boy, wearing a light blue jacket and short pants, stepped forward and raised his right hand to his brow. Mr. Farrell snapped just a single frame.
Other members of the president’s family, including his widow and brothers, are visible in Mr. Farrell’s original picture, but it is dominated by the quiet gesture of its smallest figure.

The moment was captured on newswreel film and by at least one other photographer, Stan Stearns of United Press International. Mr. Farrell’s photograph, sometimes cropped to show only John Kennedy Jr., was sent out on the Associated Press wire service and became an enduring symbol of one of the most solemn days in the country’s history

Saturday, April 11, 2015

What is the point of this article on assassinations in the NYT magazine?

See - "Do Assassins Really Change History?" Are they trying to prepare us for something?

Days after John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box at Ford’s Theater and shot Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, Benjamin Disraeli, the British prime minister, declared that “assassination has never changed the history of the world.” Was Disraeli right?

One view, the “great man” theory, claims that individual leaders play defining roles, so that assassinating one could lead to very different national or global outcomes. In contrast, historical determinism sees leaders as the proverbial ant riding the elephant’s back. Broader social, economic and political forces drive history, so that assassinations may not have meaningful effects.

Prominent examples of assassinations raise intriguing questions, but do not settle the matter. Would the Vietnam War have escalated if John F. Kennedy had not been killed? Would the Middle East peace process have proceeded more successfully if Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel had not been assassinated?

For any given individual historical episode, it is hard to know for sure. But averaging over many such examples, statistics can begin to provide a guide.

To better understand the role of assassinations in history, we collected data on all assassination attempts on national leaders from 1875 to 2004, both those that killed the leader and those that failed. There’s a lot of data: Since 1950, a national leader was assassinated in almost two out of every three years. (Today’s leaders may rest considerably easier than those in the early 20th century, when a given leader was about twice as likely to be killed as now.)

Assassination attempts are more common in larger countries, where there is a larger potential pool of assassins, and in countries at war. A country with the population of the United States is 75 percent more likely to experience an assassination attempt than a country with a population the size of Switzerland’s.

Assassins are often inaccurate, and their victims are usually bystanders. Even if the gun is fired or the bomb actually explodes, the intended target is killed less than 25 percent of the time. Bombs prove especially inaccurate, rarely killing the leader while causing substantial collateral damage, killing an average of six bystanders and wounding 18.

A leader’s survival can depend on remarkable twists of fate. Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator, reportedly survived an assassination attempt in which a live grenade bounced off his chest and killed or wounded several people in a crowd nearby. Kennedy did not escape the bullet that killed him, even though it was fired from 265 feet away and he was in a moving car. But President Ronald Reagan survived being shot at close range, as John Hinckley Jr.’s bullet punctured his lung but stopped just short of his heart.

Perhaps the most remarkable of all historical cases was Adolf Hitler’s survival of an assassination attempt in a Munich beer hall in 1939. Had Hitler lingered 13 minutes longer, he most likely would have been killed by a time bomb that destroyed the podium where he had just spoken and that killed seven people. Why did he depart? Bad weather. Fog grounded his flight back to Berlin, so Hitler left early to catch the train.

The seeming randomness in leaders’ fates may help shed light on the role of assassinations in history. We compared the 59 assassination attempts in our data that happened to succeed with 192 close calls that happened to fail.

We found that assassinations do have an effect on political systems, but with caveats. For one, the effects are largely limited to autocracies. On average, the deaths of autocrats have prompted moves toward democracy, which appear 13 percentage points more likely than when following failed attempts. Democracies, in contrast, appear robust: The deaths of democratic leaders do not lead to a slide into autocracy.

Assassinations can also change the path of war. For countries in moderate conflicts, with fewer than 1,000 battle deaths, assassinations feed the flames, as these conflicts are more likely to intensify. On the other hand, for countries already in intense conflicts, assassinations of leaders appear more likely than failed attempts to bring the war to a close.

Failed attempts themselves may change outcomes; an autocrat who survives an assassination attempt may crack down on opposition groups, leading a country further from democracy. Our data are consistent with this “intensifying autocracy” effect. Assassination attempts on autocrats thus bring considerable risk: They appear to increase the chance of democratization if the attempt succeeds, but lessen it in the far more likely event that the attempt fails.

From Caesar to Lincoln, many leaders have met violent ends — and many others narrowly escaped assassination. Ethics and law put enormous restraint on state-sponsored assassination, though lone gunmen may be hard to eliminate altogether. The historical evidence is that assassinations do matter when targeting autocrats, but they primarily bring risk. Twists of fate may have large influences on history — yet by their nature they remain outside our control.