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A Week to Honor Our Public Safety Heroes
May 17, 2013 Posted by

During National Police Week, the Justice Department participated in events across the country to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect and serve.

On Monday evening, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the 25th Annual National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Candlelight Vigil in Washington, D.C.  He said that last year witnessed the fewest line-of-duty deaths since the 1950s, but that a single act of violence against a law enforcement officer is one too many.  Attorney General Holder further noted:

“Especially this evening – as we gather in this place of honor, on this hallowed ground, to mark the 25th Annual Candlelight Vigil – I want to assure you that the courage, the fidelity and the heroic final actions of our fallen officers will never be forgotten.  Every day – in cities, rural areas and tribal communities across the country – these individuals stood on the front lines of our nation’s fight against crime and violence.  Each faced uncertain dangers, and a diverse array of threats, every time they put on their badge and uniform.”

On Wednesday, Attorney General Holder and Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary announced several improvements to modernize and streamline the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program.  Attorney General Holder stated:

“These fundamental improvements to the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program will help us cut through red tape – and ensure that fallen or injured officers and their families can get the benefits they need in a timely manner.  These improvements are representative of the value that I, the women and men of the Justice Department, and our entire country, must always place on the work of our law enforcement officers. And, it’s emblematic of our commitment to standing with all who bravely serve our nation, especially in the toughest of times.”

U.S. Attorneys across the country also commemorated Police Week in their districts.  U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz recently recognized 152 officials from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for exceptional service at the U.S. Attorney’s annual Law Enforcement Public Service Awards Ceremony.  The event followed just weeks after the death of MIT police officer Sean Collier, who was shot and killed on April 18th just days after the Boston Marathon bombings.

During the event, U.S. Attorney Ortiz praised law enforcement personnel and their accomplishments and recognized the demands placed upon them, saying:

“This work can be difficult, and at times, it may seem thankless.  Please know that your efforts do not go unnoticed. What you have sacrificed – your personal safety, your precious time with your families – it is truly appreciated by our office, your agencies and the communities for which you have dedicated your esteemed service.”

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York William J. Hochul Jr. spoke at the Police Memorial Service at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Buffalo honoring 94 federal, state and local officers killed in the line of duty and at a monument dedication ceremony in Clarence, N.Y. in memory of New York State Trooper Kevin Dobson who was killed in the line of duty in 2011.   

Other U.S. Attorneys and their staff attended memorial services, parades, wreath laying and other special events commemorating Police Week in Los Angeles, Jackson, Miss., Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio, Providence, R.I., Knoxville, Tenn., Dallas, Charleston, W.V., among others across the country.

Also during Police Week, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office held an open house in the Capitol Visitors Center for visiting law enforcement officers who wanted to learn more about the agency’s 2013 programs and resources.  COPS staff was on hand to discuss federal funding opportunities, including the COPS Hiring Program, a competitive grant program focused on school safety, veteran hiring and homicide and gun violence reduction.  Grant opportunities for the development of community policing strategies and funding for public safety enhancements in tribal jurisdictions were also highlighted.  

Events continue this weekend and throughout the month, to honor those who serve and protect every community across the country. For more information, including a detailed schedule of events for National Police Week 2013, visit www.policeweek.org.

New Network Takes Aim at Cyber Threats to National Security
November 14, 2012 Posted by

Amidst a continuing increase in national security-related cyber attacks and intrusions targeting America, the National Security Division (NSD), in partnership with the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, last week launched a new, nationwide program focused on combating cyber-based terrorism and state sponsored computer intrusions. 

Federal prosecutors from around the country convened at Justice Department headquarters from November 7-9 for the inaugural meeting of the National Security Cyber Specialists – or NSCS – network, to receive specialized training and discuss new strategies for combating cyber threats to national security.  The NSCS network, which consists of nearly 100 prosecutors from U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide and cyber experts from NSD and CCIPS, is a new tool in the government’s cyber tool kit and a critical part of the department’s efforts to better address cyber intrusions and attacks carried out by nation states or terrorist organizations.

Where attacks against America’s digital infrastructure were once primarily the work of criminal hackers and others seeking profit or acclaim, today, national security threat actors are also increasingly looking for opportunities to exploit cyberspace to achieve their objectives.  Numerous sophisticated state actors are known to be using the internet for espionage and cyber intrusions targeting America’s vital military and economic secrets.  And while terrorists have yet to launch a major cyber attack against this country, they have already used the internet to facilitate bomb plots  against the United States, and have exhorted individuals with cyber expertise to exploit U.S. cyber vulnerabilities — weaknesses they liken to the vulnerability of U.S. airline security before September 11.

Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said at a cyber conference last month in Seattle:

 “We often think of national security threats, like that of a catastrophic terrorist attack, as questions about prevention. But the cyber threat is not simply looming – it is here.  It is present and growing.”

The NSCS network is a creation of the Justice Department’s NSD, working in partnership with CCIPS, the Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, and the U.S. Attorney community.  Recognizing the emerging cyber threat from nation states and terrorists, and building on the groundwork laid by CCIPS and the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property coordinators in combating cyber crimes, last year NSD undertook a comprehensive review of its cyber-related efforts to determine how it could contribute most to U.S. efforts to combat cyber threats to national security. 

In April 2012, the division completed its review and charted short- and long-term goals, which included as a top priority the creation of a nationwide network of headquarters and field personnel trained and equipped to handle national security-related cyber issues.  In June of this year, NSD established the NSCS at Justice Department headquarters by bringing together individuals from across NSD and CCIPS to work collaboratively on cyber national security issues and to serve as a one-stop shop for prosecutors and agents around the country when they learn of national security-related cyber intrusions and for reporting from private sector entities.  The headquarters component of the network is intended to harness talent and expertise from across the Department to attack these problems from all angles and identify possible case overlaps and potential leads. 

To build upon the steps taken at headquarters, in July 2012, each of the 93 U.S. Attorney’s Offices designated one or more cleared attorneys to act as force multipliers, broadening the network’s reach.  U.S. Attorneys will also play a critical role in the network, leading the engagement of their particular districts.  Drawing on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force model, which has been successful in the counterterrorism realm, this network will improve the flow of national security cyber information to and from offices around the country.

To equip this large cyber cadre in how to best address these new threats, the department has developed and carried out extensive training.  Last week’s inaugural NSCS conference covered topics ranging from digital evidence, to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to current threat trends, to common challenges in combating national security cyber threats specifically.  Underscoring the importance of this mission, Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Assistant Attorney General Monaco, and others from the department and the FBI addressed the network throughout the three-day conference.  This event followed specialized training by NSD and CCIPS in October for all members of the NSCS network at Justice Department headquarters, and a more general training on basic cyber issues for approximately another 100 headquarters attorneys.

With the network built, the department will be able to accelerate some of the national security cyber work that has been ongoing since NSD’s cyber review.  In particular, the network will help strengthen partnerships between the department and agencies across the U.S. government, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and various elements of the Intelligence Community.  The network also will work particularly closely with the FBI’s National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF) to help preserve all intelligence collection, prevention, disruption and response options for cyber national security threats.  NSD has already installed a dedicated liaison to NCIJTF.  In addition, the NSCS network will be increasing its outreach to the private sector to engage businesses and individuals in the cyber discussion and help prevent attacks and intrusions.  Through these private sector alliances, the network will gain a better understanding of private sector cyber security concerns.

Going forward, the NSCS network is focused on ensuring a whole-of-government and all-tools approach to combating cyber threats to national security.  The network will be working to bring investigations and prosecutions as viable options for deterrence and disruption as part of the government-wide response to these threats.  The network will also be advising and consulting other parts of the government in the use of additional tools to counter these threats.

As Assistant Attorney General Monaco stated last month in Seattle:

 “The diversity of cyber threats and threat actors demands a diverse response.  This nation has many tools – intelligence, law enforcement, military, diplomatic, and economic – at its collective disposal, as well as deep and diverse expertise.  The trick is in harnessing our collective resources to work effectively together.” 

Through the creation of the NSCS network, the department is ensuring that the full power of its collective resources is brought to bear against national security cyber threats.

Federal Law Enforcement Highlight Cyber Threat
November 1, 2012 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington

Speaking at the 2012 Cybercrime Conference hosted by U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan of the Western District of Washington, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco, reiterated to an audience that threats posed through cyberspace are expected – in the not too distant future – to become the number one threat to our nation’s security.

In the lead panel entitled “Cyberthreats and National Security: A Convergence,” Assistant Attorney General Monaco described how the internet is being used not only to facilitate bomb plots and other terrorist operations targeting the United States, but is also being used for espionage and cyber intrusions aimed at obtaining American economic, commercial or trade secrets. 

Assistant Attorney General Monaco:

“There is no such thing as a local cybercrime. The hacker has probably touched three continents before he skims your bank account.”

U.S. Attorney Durkan spoke about the evolving threat of cybercrime, and about the steps taken by the Justice Department and their international partners:

“Cyber threats are rapidly evolving.  They impact our daily lives, our economy and our personal and national security.  We will use every means to detect, disrupt and defend against this growing problem. Fortunately, we are bringing the right people with better tools to the fight.  To confront the cyber threats we need to ensure that law enforcement, private industry and our international partners are sharing information, working together and coordinating responses.” 

Both Hugh Dunleavy, Deputy Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service, and James Burrell, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, described how “hackers for hire” can be used by nation states to attack the U.S. and American industries.  Most of the data breaches occur through servers and more than two-thirds of the breaches are traced to hackers in Europe.  All the members of the panel agreed it is critical to have international relations in place to be able to investigate and prosecute cyber criminals.

U.S. Attorney Durkan is Chair of a department committee on Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement.  The Cybercrime Conference is an annual event bringing together leaders in technology from the private sector, government and law enforcement.

The conference, held in Seattle last week, was attended by more than 200 people and touched on a variety of issues.  Some of the panel discussions are summarized here:

In Privacy Under Attack: Government or Industry, and the Need for a Privacy Bill of Rights, five experienced panelists discussed the changing landscape of privacy rights and protections in an age dominated by social media and mobile devices filled with apps that collect users’ personal information.  While the panelists all agreed that “Big Data” is a modern reality, they debated how to best maximize its uses while minimizing intrusions on personal privacy.  The debate included a robust discussion of how and when consumers should be notified that their information is being gathered, and how their consent should be obtained to use that information.

In Computer Searches in the New Millennium: the Collision between the Fourth Amendment and Computer Forensics, the panel reviewed the Ninth Circuit’s landmark decision in United States v. Comprehensive Drug Testing, and debated the need for special rules governing the execution of search warrants on computers, and whether such rules are required under the Fourth Amendment.  The panel also discussed the efficacy and practicality of such rules in the context of computer forensics.

In Getting Ahead: Joint Cooperation in Response to and Prevention of Cyberthreats, panelists discussed implementing better methods of sharing information between researchers, law enforcement, and industry in an effort to assist in identifying threats, mitigating the harm caused by cyberattacks, and bringing the wrongdoers to justice, with a special focus on several of the practical and legal limitations on such information sharing. 

For more information on cyber crime, visit the FBI Cyber Crime Information web page or File a Complaint with the Internet Crimes Complaint Center.

Working Together to Help Children Exposed to Drugs and Violence
October 24, 2012 Posted by

It is estimated that over 9 million children live in homes where a parent or other adult use illegal drugs. Children growing up in such a challenging environment are 3 times more likely to be verbally, physically, or sexually abused and 4 times more likely to be neglected.

This week, Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Community Oriented Policing Services Office Director Bernard Melekian, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas Barry Grissom, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, Nicholas Klinefeldt, and  interim U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Sean Berry attended the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children Conference in Des Moines, Iowa to support the efforts to find and help children growing up in dangerous drug environments. 

Deputy Attorney General James Cole spoke with urgency about the importance and responsibility we have to ensure the justice, health and safety of these vulnerable young members of our communities:

This work is difficult and gut-wrenching. We cannot simply arrest and prosecute our way out of the growing epidemic of drug abuse, trafficking, and addiction by parents and childcare providers.   Saving these children requires a multi-disciplinary approach involving coordinated teams comprised of law enforcement, child protective services, healthcare professionals, educators, victim service specialists, child advocates, courts, and the community.   It requires all of us.

As Chairman of the Federal Interagency Task Force on Drug Endangered Children,  Deputy Attorney General Cole has led the efforts to raise awareness; increase coordination at the federal, state, tribal and local levels; and provide assistance to the field. 

The DEC Task Force recently developed a combined resource CD for law enforcement and child welfare agencies; new training courses at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; and developed a drug endangered children resource website.

The National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (National DEC) is one of the DEC Task Force’s best allies. This year they received a $1.2 million in grants from the department. With this funding, they’ve transformed from an informal association of state leaders to a national voice for training, technical assistance, and advocacy on behalf of abused and neglected children.

COPS Director Melekian:

The better the availability of training opportunities focused on identifying and helping drug endangered children, the better chance we have of making this a central part of law enforcement’s mission to serve and protect.  And it needs to be clear that there is an alternative to the violence and fear that is part of the daily lives of these children…With the right tools and information, we can reduce the incidences of children’s exposure to violence and intervene more effectively.

In addition to the national organization, state-level DEC groups are finding innovative solutions to share with their state and federal partners.

For example, the COPS Office awarded the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children funding to expand their Drug Endangered Children Tracking System (DECSYS).  DECSYS is an easy-to-use, web-based system that allows law enforcement and child protection agencies an automated process for identifying children at risk.

This can expedite the identification of children in danger and bring them the assistance they need.  In the last two years, DECSYS has been credited with a 150 percent increase in the number of drug endangered children identified for child protective services.  It will soon launch in Nevada and Wisconsin.

U.S. Attorney Grissom spoke about coordination and collaboration:

Our coordination and collaboration with the Southern District of Iowa and the National DEC Alliance serves as an example of the power of partnerships;  this training will encourage partnerships, and provide tools for law enforcement, victim service providers, medical personnel,  welfare workers, educators  and other professionals to protect our most valuable resource, our children.    

While investigation and  prosecution will be discussed at this conference, the conference will focus on the importance of partnerships to assure the safety of children, enforce state and federal laws, and identify alternatives to incarceration that are designed to maintain,  or reunite families.

By bringing together federal, state and local resources with advocates, experts and community leaders, we can raise awareness of the plight of drug endangered children nationwide. We can increase coordination and intervene early to stop the cycle of violence and ensure these vulnerable citizens have the bright future full of promise they deserve.

To learn more about Drug Endangered Children, visit justice.gov/dec.

Sharing Best Practices on Reentry Efforts at First District-Wide Conference
October 19, 2012 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Zane David Memeger is U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

On October 16, I had the pleasure of joining Deputy Attorney General James Cole, in Chester, Pa., at the first, district-wide Southeastern Regional Reentry Conference. We had the opportunity to speak with more than 200 county, state, federal, faith-based and non-profit professionals — sharing information and practices that will help improve prisoner reentry efforts. 

Today, some 2.3 million people – or more than 1 in 100 American adults – are behind bars in the United States.  At some point, 95 percent of these prisoners will be released.  This translates into some 700,000 people coming out of our state and federal prisons every year.  Two-thirds of all released state prisoners will be re-arrested within three years, and half will return to prison.  Among released federal prisoners, 40 percent are re-arrested or have their supervision revoked within three years.

In his remarks, Deputy Attorney General Cole emphasized the importance of making communities safe with these reentry efforts:

“As we continue to work with reentry projects and learn about them, we realize more and more that they need to be sustained and continuous if they are to be successful. They need to start the first day an individual arrives at the prison.  The process needs to be nurtured while the individuals are incarcerated by having programs to deal with drug addiction, mental health issues, and basic job and life skills that will give them a fighting chance when they are released.  After they are released, whether it is in a transitional setting or when they are living fully in the community, there needs to be follow up to support what they learned and achieved in the prison programs.” 

“All of these initiatives are geared toward giving returning inmates a fresh start and an opportunity to contribute to the safety of their communities.  The first and most important decision a former inmate can make is to remain crime-free.  And as we develop new reentry policies and practices, we need to measure our success by how effective we are at keeping inmates from returning to prison or jail while keeping our communities safe.”

While speaking to the attendees, I highlighted the role that reentry programs can play in reducing the rates of recidivism in the country:

“The vast majority of defendants we prosecute will be returning to live in our communities upon their release from prison. Accordingly, it is vital that we take appropriate steps to ensure that formerly incarcerated individuals are provided with the tools and support necessary to successfully and lawfully reintegrate into the community.  Otherwise, the vicious cycle of recidivism will simply continue as we cannot arrest our way out of the crime problems facing this district.  Today’s conference will clearly foster and enhance the federal, state and local agency partnerships which are key in the effort to reduce recidivism.” 

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania has been active in federal reentry efforts and this event brought together the agencies and programs involved in reentry.   One of the programs highlighted at the conference was the U.S. District Court’s Supervision to Aid Reentry (STAR) reentry court, an intensive 52-week court program that assists people returning from federal prison who are at high-risk of re-offending.  Reentry courts are operating in over 50 districts.  Reentry courts are a form of heightened supervised release that combines significantly increased judicial oversight and in-court hearings with the collaborative efforts of the probation office, the U.S. attorney office, the federal defender’s office, and contract treatment/service providers.  Some individual reentry courts have been examined.  Studies from courts in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the District of Massachusetts generally show a reduction in recidivism for participants.  In the Eastern District, the study found that only 10 percent of reentry court graduates were rearrested during the 18 month study period, compared to 31 percent of the control group. 

It is clear that we face significant challenges in ensuring the safe and effective reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals.  The issues are complex and the stakes are high.  The key to responding to these challenges lies in working together and collaborating at events like today’s conference.

The Southeastern Regional Reentry Conference was sponsored by Widener University’s Center For Violence Prevention, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), and the United States Attorney’s Office.

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A Comprehensive Anti-Violence Strategy: Reentry, Prevention and Enforcement
October 11, 2012 Posted by

On October 10th, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole traveled to Talladega, Ala., where he spoke with members of the Northern Alabama Reentry Council. The Reentry Council was formed in April 2011, with the goal of offering recommendations to create more successful outcomes in the lives of former inmates, as well as improving the security of the communities they return to upon their release. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Joyce White Vance, Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels and FCI Talladega Warden John Rathman hosted the Reentry Council meeting which included a group of professionals from across the federal, state and local criminal justice systems. 

Each year more than 700,000 individuals exit our state and federal prisons. Currently, two-thirds of all released state prisoners will be rearrested within three years, with half of those returning to prison. Forty percent of former federal prisoners are rearrested or have their supervision revoked within three years after release. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that more than $74 billion is spent on state, local and federal prisons each year.  The Department of Justice has made a strong commitment to programs that will assist with reentry, along with prevention and enforcement, as part of our comprehensive Anti-Violence Strategy.

As Deputy Attorney General Cole said:

“The members of this Council have recognized that we can no longer afford the societal and budgetary costs incurred when people cycle in and out of our prisons… As we developed our comprehensive Anti-Violence Strategy we realized that we cannot arrest and prosecute our way out of this devastating problem.  While prosecution is important, we also have to prevent the violence from happening in the first place and one important way to do this is to pay attention to the people incarcerated in our prisons and as they prepare to leave those institutions make sure they are ready to reenter our communities as productive, law abiding members.  In this vein, federal prosecutors are encouraged to think comprehensively about the criminal justice process – to critically examine other ways to improve public safety, beyond traditional enforcement and to place an increased reliance on criminal justice stakeholders and community leaders to help guide and inform these efforts.” 

Deputy Attorney General Cole went on to discuss other efforts that are being made at the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Prisons and at the state level. He highlighted, for example, programs taking place in Alabama through the Reentry Council:

“[T]hrough its working groups, this Council has tackled issues for formerly incarcerated individuals involving housing, transportation, healthcare and rehabilitation, education, job training and access, and community support and reintegration.  The working groups have developed and implemented critical initiatives which are providing measurable results — such as working on the development of a memorandum of understanding between municipal judges to assist formerly incarcerated individuals who are attempting to re-acquire their driver’s licenses.”

Under Attorney General Eric Holder, the department has prioritized effective reentry and reinvestment programs for formerly incarcerated individuals. Since October 2009, the department has awarded more than $200 million Second Chance Act grants to more than 370 state, local and tribal prisoner reentry programs. These grants will help the nearly 10 million individuals that are released from jails and state and federal prisons each year successfully return to communities.  Recently, the Office of Justice Programs announced new awards including a grant to the Alabama Department of Corrections for the Jefferson County Reentry Planning Project.

U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance noted the impact of the Reentry Council working with the states to take an active role to find solutions to ensure public safety and security.

“The North Alabama Reentry Council has been a collaborative effort among federal and state judges, prosecutors, probation and prisons officials to achieve better outcomes for formerly incarcerated individuals reentering our communities. Our goal in these efforts is to identify and coordinate resources toward enhancing public safety and saving taxpayer dollars. I have been deeply impressed by all the groups in the community who were operating in isolation but came forward and are now working in specific areas that were the worst barriers to successful re-entry.”

In 2011, Attorney General Holder created the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, bringing together 20 federal agencies to tackle the issue of reentry in a comprehensive way. The Department of Justice recognizes that in order to make our country safer, it is important to make sure that rehabilitation and reentry outcomes are a priority. As Deputy Attorney General Cole said:

“Only by working together can we reduce criminal justice spending, protect individuals and their families, prevent new victimizations, and improve the quality of our communities.”

For more information about the Reentry Council and Second Chance Act, visit www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org

 
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