Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Monday, 31 December 2007
The Airport Security Follies
Now Playing: TSA trummed up fear ....flying safe? I doubt it!
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
December 28, 2007, 6:52 pm
The Airport Security Follies
Six years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, airport security remains a theater of the absurd. The changes put in place following the September 11th catastrophe have been drastic, and largely of two kinds: those practical and effective, and those irrational, wasteful and pointless.
The first variety have taken place almost entirely behind the scenes. Explosives scanning for checked luggage, for instance, was long overdue and is perhaps the most welcome addition. Unfortunately, at concourse checkpoints all across America, the madness of passenger screening continues in plain view. It began with pat-downs and the senseless confiscation of pointy objects. Then came the mandatory shoe removal, followed in the summer of 2006 by the prohibition of liquids and gels. We can only imagine what is next.
To understand what makes these measures so absurd, we first need to revisit the morning of September 11th, and grasp exactly what it was the 19 hijackers so easily took advantage of. Conventional wisdom says the terrorists exploited a weakness in airport security by smuggling aboard box-cutters. What they actually exploited was a weakness in our mindset — a set of presumptions based on the decades-long track record of hijackings.
In years past, a takeover meant hostage negotiations and standoffs; crews were trained in the concept of “passive resistance.” All of that changed forever the instant American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the north tower. What weapons the 19 men possessed mattered little; the success of their plan relied fundamentally on the element of surprise. And in this respect, their scheme was all but guaranteed not to fail.
For several reasons — particularly the awareness of passengers and crew — just the opposite is true today. Any hijacker would face a planeload of angry and frightened people ready to fight back. Say what you want of terrorists, they cannot afford to waste time and resources on schemes with a high probability of failure. And thus the September 11th template is all but useless to potential hijackers.
No matter that a deadly sharp can be fashioned from virtually anything found on a plane, be it a broken wine bottle or a snapped-off length of plastic, we are content wasting billions of taxpayer dollars and untold hours of labor in a delusional attempt to thwart an attack that has already happened, asked to queue for absurd lengths of time, subject to embarrassing pat-downs and loss of our belongings.
The folly is much the same with respect to the liquids and gels restrictions, introduced two summers ago following the breakup of a London-based cabal that was planning to blow up jetliners using liquid explosives. Allegations surrounding the conspiracy were revealed to substantially embellished. In an August, 2006 article in the New York Times, British officials admitted that public statements made following the arrests were overcooked, inaccurate and “unfortunate.” The plot’s leaders were still in the process of recruiting and radicalizing would-be bombers. They lacked passports, airline tickets and, most critical of all, they had been unsuccessful in actually producing liquid explosives. Investigators later described the widely parroted report that up to ten U.S airliners had been targeted as “speculative” and “exaggerated.”
Among first to express serious skepticism about the bombers’ readiness was Thomas C. Greene, whose essay in The Register explored the extreme difficulty of mixing and deploying the types of binary explosives purportedly to be used. Green conferred with Professor Jimmie C. Oxley, an explosives specialist who has closely studied the type of deadly cocktail coveted by the London plotters.
“The notion that deadly explosives can be cooked up in an airplane lavatory is pure fiction,” Greene told me during an interview. “A handy gimmick for action movies and shows like ‘24.’ The reality proves disappointing: it’s rather awkward to do chemistry in an airplane toilet. Nevertheless, our official protectors and deciders respond to such notions instinctively, because they’re familiar to us: we’ve all seen scenarios on television and in the cinema. This, incredibly, is why you can no longer carry a bottle of water onto a plane.”
The threat of liquid explosives does exist, but it cannot be readily brewed from the kinds of liquids we have devoted most of our resources to keeping away from planes. Certain benign liquids, when combined under highly specific conditions, are indeed dangerous. However, creating those conditions poses enormous challenges for a saboteur.
“I would not hesitate to allow that liquid explosives can pose a danger,” Greene added, recalling Ramzi Yousef’s 1994 detonation of a small nitroglycerine bomb aboard Philippine Airlines Flight 434. The explosion was a test run for the so-called “Project Bojinka,” an Al Qaeda scheme to simultaneously destroy a dozen widebody airliners over the Pacific Ocean. “But the idea that confiscating someone’s toothpaste is going to keep us safe is too ridiculous to entertain.”
Yet that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. The three-ounce container rule is silly enough — after all, what’s to stop somebody from carrying several small bottles each full of the same substance — but consider for a moment the hypocrisy of T.S.A.’s confiscation policy. At every concourse checkpoint you’ll see a bin or barrel brimming with contraband containers taken from passengers for having exceeded the volume limit. Now, the assumption has to be that the materials in those containers are potentially hazardous. If not, why were they seized in the first place? But if so, why are they dumped unceremoniously into the trash? They are not quarantined or handed over to the bomb squad; they are simply thrown away. The agency seems to be saying that it knows these things are harmless. But it’s going to steal them anyway, and either you accept it or you don’t fly.
But of all the contradictions and self-defeating measures T.S.A. has come up with, possibly none is more blatantly ludicrous than the policy decreeing that pilots and flight attendants undergo the same x-ray and metal detector screening as passengers. What makes it ludicrous is that tens of thousands of other airport workers, from baggage loaders and fuelers to cabin cleaners and maintenance personnel, are subject only to occasional random screenings when they come to work.
These are individuals with full access to aircraft, inside and out. Some are airline employees, though a high percentage are contract staff belonging to outside companies. The fact that crew members, many of whom are former military fliers, and all of whom endured rigorous background checks prior to being hired, are required to take out their laptops and surrender their hobby knives, while a caterer or cabin cleaner sidesteps the entire process and walks onto a plane unimpeded, nullifies almost everything our T.S.A. minders have said and done since September 11th, 2001. If there is a more ringing let-me-get-this-straight scenario anywhere in the realm of airport security, I’d like to hear it.
I’m not suggesting that the rules be tightened for non-crew members so much as relaxed for all accredited workers. Which perhaps urges us to reconsider the entire purpose of airport security:
The truth is, regardless of how many pointy tools and shampoo bottles we confiscate, there shall remain an unlimited number of ways to smuggle dangerous items onto a plane. The precise shape, form and substance of those items is irrelevant. We are not fighting materials, we are fighting the imagination and cleverness of the would-be saboteur.
Thus, what most people fail to grasp is that the nuts and bolts of keeping terrorists away from planes is not really the job of airport security at all. Rather, it’s the job of government agencies and law enforcement. It’s not very glamorous, but the grunt work of hunting down terrorists takes place far off stage, relying on the diligent work of cops, spies and intelligence officers. Air crimes need to be stopped at the planning stages. By the time a terrorist gets to the airport, chances are it’s too late.
In the end, I’m not sure which is more troubling, the inanity of the existing regulations, or the average American’s acceptance of them and willingness to be humiliated. These wasteful and tedious protocols have solidified into what appears to be indefinite policy, with little or no opposition. There ought to be a tide of protest rising up against this mania. Where is it? At its loudest, the voice of the traveling public is one of grumbled resignation. The op-ed pages are silent, the pundits have nothing meaningful to say.
The airlines, for their part, are in something of a bind. The willingness of our carriers to allow flying to become an increasingly unpleasant experience suggests a business sense of masochistic capitulation. On the other hand, imagine the outrage among security zealots should airlines be caught lobbying for what is perceived to be a dangerous abrogation of security and responsibility — even if it’s not. Carriers caught plenty of flack, almost all of it unfair, in the aftermath of September 11th. Understandably, they no longer want that liability.
As for Americans themselves, I suppose that it’s less than realistic to expect street protests or airport sit-ins from citizen fliers, and maybe we shouldn’t expect too much from a press and media that have had no trouble letting countless other injustices slip to the wayside. And rather than rethink our policies, the best we’ve come up with is a way to skirt them — for a fee, naturally — via schemes like Registered Traveler. Americans can now pay to have their personal information put on file just to avoid the hassle of airport security. As cynical as George Orwell ever was, I doubt he imagined the idea of citizens offering up money for their own subjugation.
How we got to this point is an interesting study in reactionary politics, fear-mongering and a disconcerting willingness of the American public to accept almost anything in the name of “security.” Conned and frightened, our nation demands not actual security, but security spectacle. And although a reasonable percentage of passengers, along with most security experts, would concur such theater serves no useful purpose, there has been surprisingly little outrage. In that regard, maybe we’ve gotten exactly the system we deserve.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 11:24 AM PST
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Bush wont have a chance (HAHA) to appoint while Congress is on recess
Now Playing: "pro forma" sessions (Congress Keeps Running)
Topic: SMILE SMILE SMILE
Copied from - WASHINGTON (CNN)
The U.S. Senate was called to order for 11 seconds on Wednesday as the last political scuffle of the year between the White House and the Democratic-led Congress played out.
Democratic senators will hold short "pro forma" sessions over the holiday break to prevent recess appointments.
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, opened and then immediately gaveled the Senate session to a close.
He spent 57 seconds in the chamber.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, announced December 19 that he would keep the Senate open with a series of "pro forma" sessions through mid-January.
Talks had just broken down with the White House on a deal that would have allowed the president to make dozens of those appointments if he agreed not to appoint one controversial official,
as the permanent head of the influential Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department.
Bush declined to accept the Democrats' offer, and Reid refused to approve Bradbury because of concerns about his involvement in crafting legal opinions for the administration on interrogation techniques of terrorism suspects.
Similar sessions were conducted over the Thanksgiving recess.
Webb also did the duty Friday, but he won't be the only senator tasked with presiding over the shortened sessions. Other Democrats -- including Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Chuck Schumer of New York -- will share the duty.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 5:17 PM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 26 December 2007 5:18 PM PST
Sunday, 23 December 2007
FBI (J.Edgar Hoover) Sought Authority To Detain Thousands
Now Playing: to "protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage,"
Topic: CIVIL RIGHTS
FBI Sought Authority
To Detain Thousands
Declassified Papers Detail
Hoover Plan During Korean War
The following post was copied from:
Sunday, December 23, 2007; A16
Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had a plan to suspend the rules against illegal detention shortly after the Korean War began and arrest as many as 12,000 Americans he suspected of being disloyal, according to a newly declassified document.
Hoover sent his plan to detain suspect Americans in military and federal prisons to the White House on July 7, 1950, but there is no evidence to suggest that President Harry S. Truman or any subsequent president approved any part of the proposal.
Hoover had wanted Truman to declare the mass arrests necessary to "protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage," the New York Times reported yesterday in a story posted on its Web site.
The plan called for the FBI to apprehend all potentially dangerous individuals whose names were on a list that Hoover had been compiling for years.
"The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven percent are citizens of the United States," Hoover wrote in the now-declassified document. "In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus."
Habeas corpus, the right to seek relief from illegal detention, is a bedrock legal principle.
All apprehended individuals eventually would have had the right to a hearing under Hoover's plan, but hearing boards composed of one judge and two citizens "will not be bound by the rules of evidence," he wrote.
The details of Hoover's plan was among a collection of Cold War-era documents related to intelligence issues from 1950 to 1955. The State Department declassified the documents Friday.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:38 PM PST
Updated: Sunday, 23 December 2007 12:42 PM PST
Protestors Drive Blood-spattered Car onto Blackwater Property
Now Playing: Blackwater Protest
onto Blackwater Property
Seven activists are arrested after driving onto Blackwater's property to protest the military contractor's presence in Iraq. 50 others vigil along road.
At almost noon on Saturday, October 20th, an old silver Subaru, pock-marked with mock bullet holes, spattered in psuedo-blood and spray-painted "handiwork of Blackwater", pulled up in front of a large sign displaying a big bear-paw--the logo of Blackwater Worldwide. The sign sits just inside the property line of the private military contractor's 7,000 acre facility in the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina.
Six "blood"-stained passengers emerged from the car, marked two signs with red hand-prints and "died" in and around the battered car, while a supporter read a description of the Nisour Square Massacre of Sept. 16th, in which Blackwater employees had killed 17 Iraqi civilians.
As an independent film-maker followed the gruesome re-enactment, Blackwater employees and eventually police officers arrived on the scene, demanding that demonstrators leave Blackwater property.
Within ten minutes, 50 additional protestors had arrived, lining the street leading up to the Blackwater property sign with banners and posters: "Blackwater: Shoot First, Ask No Questions", "Blackwater, USA, Out of Iraq".
It took police about an hour to arrest the six people from the car: Bill Streit from Louisa, VA, Steve Baggarly from Norfolk, VA, Beth Brockman and Laura Marks from North Carolina, Peter Demott from New York and Mark Coleville from Connecticutt. Before they were all in the sheriff's van, they'd been joined my Mary Grace of Madison, VA, who crossed onto Blackwater property to kneel in prayer.
All seven were taken to Currituk Count Jail. Mary Grace was charged with second-degree tresspassing and the others were charged with trespassing, injury to real property and resisting arrest. The North Carolina residents were released with a December 5th courtdate. The rest are being held on bail ($500 for Mary Grace, $1,000 for the rest), at least until their arraignment on Wednesday.
For more info. and updates, call Little Flower Catholic Worker at 540-967-5574.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 1:25 AM PST
Updated: Sunday, 23 December 2007 1:30 AM PST
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
About Time Some Common Sense & Decency is Afforded to us Citizens
Now Playing: White House "tries" to block "public records" - Sorry Boys!
Visitor Log is
12/18/07 -- Posted by Catherine Morgan
Smacks Down on
White House Log Secrecy
Why in the world do White House visitor logs need to be a national secret? Well, when all else fails the Bush administration usually plays the "Threat to National Security" card. No surprise here, that is exactly what they did. However, on Monday, a federal judge rejected the Bush administration argument for secrecy, and ruled that the visitor logs are subject to the Freedom of Information Act and are public information. This is from The Carpetbagger Report...
For several years now, White House visitor logs have been a major point of contention with the Bush gang.
About a year ago, for example, when Dick Cheney insisted that his visitor logs remain classified, the WaPo sued the administration for access. A federal judge eventually ruled that the logs were public information, prompting Cheney to direct the Justice Department to block the decision on national security grounds.
But that’s just the start of the Bush gang’s log problem. In June, Cheney instructed the Secret Service to destroy copies of visitor logs. A few months prior, the White House told the Secret Service that while it maintains the visitor logs, the logs don’t actually belong to the Secret Service, which means FOIA doesn’t apply.
Other bloggers are talking about this latest triumph over secrecy... The FOI Advocate
Blue Girl, Red State
Jason Daley has a post on what the secret service log looked like on one particular day.
So, what do you think about this? Should the White House visitor log be public? Do you think it's a threat to national security? Would you vote for a presidential candidate that intended to maintain such a high level of secrecy?
Z3 Readers click here to go to the original post and to read the comments that have been posted there.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 7:10 PM PST
Monday, 17 December 2007
YouTube suspends Egyptian blog activists account
Now Playing: Egyptian blogger exposes torture, now his video blog site is closed
Egyptian blog activist's account
Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas has been using YouTube to expose torture in his country, but now his account has been suspended. Bloggers accuse YouTube of double standards.
November 28, 2007 6:25 PM
YouTube has suspended the account of Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas, who has been posting videos of cases of torture in his country. One of the videos he posted, of a Cairo man being beating and sexually assaulting, was credited with helping bring pressure on Egyptian authorities. That pressure led to three-year jail sentences for two of the policeman involved in the assault. Abbas has called the suspension of his YouTube account "by far the biggest blow to the anti-torture movement in Egypt", according to Amira Al Hussaini on Global Voices.
Technorati Tags: Egypt, Google , human rights, YouTube
Amira has collected a good sample of reaction by Egyptian bloggers. Blogger Hossam El Hamalawy called the move by YouTube "un-bloody-believable" and said:
Wael's videos have been central in the fight against police brutality, and YouTube should be proud the Egyptian anti-torture activists have been using its channels in the current War on Torture
He predicted that activists would move the videos to other sites. The move has already started. A video showing scenes of torture in Egypt on the Global Voices post is hosted on the popular French video sharing site, DailyMotion.
But in a comment on Hamalawy's post, Mostafa Hussein said that YouTube's terms of service prevent the posting of such videos:
This is actually true if you take a look at it. It states that content should follow the community guidelines. In these community guidelines, there is this statement saying "Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone getting hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don't post it."
He suggested that activists use other sites, not just commercial sites like DailyMotion but "activist friendly" sites like IndyMedia.
Well-known Egyptian blogger Big Pharaoh has called on readers of his blog to protest YouTube's decision.
These videos are the only mean to expose what happens in our police stations, without them the cry of people who were subjected to torture will go unheard.
Outside of Egypt, Stan Schroeder writing on Mashable, a site which covers social networking, questioned why Abbas' account was suspended when other videos of violence are on the site:
OK, why then can I find dozens of videos of people getting tasered by the police? If you ask me, a video of someone getting shocked with a high voltage weapon can definitely be described as graphic violence. And many will argue that the violence in such videos cannot be qualified as gratuitous. ... This is an ongoing problem with practically all sites which aggregate user-submitted content: double (or simply unclear) standards.
The question for Schroeder was whether showing police brutality qualified as 'gratuitous' violence. One of the commenters pointed out the Witness' Hub was created specifically to host videos of human rights abuses. But another commenter said that the audience at the Hub is much less than YouTube, and many of the videos on the Hub are in fact hosted elsewhere on sites like YouTube.
On the blog Mideast Youth, Esra'a from Bahrain says that this is pattern of YouTube and parent company Google giving into state pressure, saying that it recently gave into pressure from Turkish authorities.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 5:45 PM PST
Updated: Monday, 17 December 2007 5:47 PM PST
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Government blocks search engines from their websites
Now Playing: Cover up-ed & non transparent... welcome to the Bush Regime
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
Govt Info at Your Fingertips?
Not Quite !
December 11, 2007 1:13 PM
Looking for information on grandparents' visitation rights? Wondering how to obtain a farm loan? Want to know more about federal radiation monitoring in New York City?
The U.S. government has the answers to questions like these, and they are mostly online. But you won't find them using Google, Yahoo or other major search engines, according to an Internet-age Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group.
By accident or by design, millions of pages of potentially useful, publicly-funded information are blocked from major search engines, the Center for Democracy and Technology says in a new report.
Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.
In many cases, government agencies fail to take basic steps to ensure their Web sites can be indexed by search engines, the group found.
"It's really trivial," said CDT spokesman Brock Meeks. The process "takes maybe half an hour," he said. "It's a well-known, commonly-used standard...something you could find in the 'Dummies Book to the Internet.'"
In some cases, government employees have written files to bar Web surfers from finding particular pages on their sites through Google or other search engines. Until recently, the White House made it impossible for U.S. taxpayers and others to find information about Iraq on the whitehouse.gov Web site without searching at the site itself. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also blocked search engines' access to its public site.
Following reports of the blocks on cNet.com in September, both the White House and ODNI said the blocks were written in error and removed them.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 11:19 AM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007 11:22 AM PST
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
Desmond Tutu tells USA is pursuing an apartheid-era type of government
Now Playing: Tutu speaks about USA Torture policies
At an event to commemorate the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDR) today, the Nobel laureate said the detention of suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a "huge blot on a democracy".
"Whoever imagined that you would hear from the United States and from Britain the same arguments for detention without trial that were used by the apartheid government," Archbishop Tutu said.
Archbishop Tutu is chairman of the Elders, a group of prominent international statesmen that includes former US president Jimmy Carter, anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and his Mozambican-born wife, Graca Machel.
The group is spearheading a campaign to get one billion people to sign a pledge reaffirming the principles of the UNDR, passed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.
Archbishop Tutu, who helped lead the struggle to overthrow white minority rule in South Africa, said he was surprised so many Americans had accepted the argument that the Guantanamo detentions were necessary because of national security.
"It is exactly what the apartheid government used to say here," the Anglican cleric said.
His remarks come amid a growing outcry over alleged abuses at Guantanamo, which was used as a mass detention centre for suspected violent Islamic radicals in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.
Critics have said the US is circumventing international law by holding detainees without charge, often for years, and violated their human rights with forced confessions and torture tactics.
President George W. Bush said the detentions are lawful, humane and necessary as part of its fight against extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.
The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a legal challenge by Guantanamo inmates who are contesting their detention.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 11:28 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007 11:31 PM PST
Monday, 10 December 2007
Justices: Judges can slash crack sentences
Now Playing: Finally justice in Crack Alley - The Supreme Court finally balances the law
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
& THE SUPREME COURT
NEW [JUSTICE] LAW
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that federal judges have the discretion to give "reasonably" shorter prison terms for crack-cocaine crimes to reduce the disparity with crimes involving cocaine powder.
Lawyers argue that crack-cocaine offenders were unfairly targeted.
The 7-2 ruling represents a victory for lawyers who argued that crack-cocaine offenders were unfairly targeted under U.S. sentencing guidelines.
Current federal penalties for selling 5 grams of crack cocaine can warrant the same prison sentence as dealing 500 grams of the powdered variety.
The Supreme Court case centered around Derrick Kimbrough of Norfolk, Virginia, who according to court records, pleaded guilty to distributing more than 50 grams of crack cocaine. Federal sentencing guidelines called for 19 to 22.5 years behind bars. But Judge Raymond Jackson instead gave the defendant a 15-year sentence, calling the case "another example of how crack-cocaine guidelines are driving the offense level to a point higher than is necessary to do justice."
A federal appeals court overturned the case and sent it to a higher court, saying Jackson's discretion was "unreasonable when it is based on a disagreement with the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses."
Said Kimbrough's attorney, Michael Nachmanoff in October, "A sentence of 19 years for a man with no felony convictions who served his country honorably, who had never spent a night in jail ... that was ridiculous."
Kimbrough is a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and is African-American.
African-Americans were nearly 82 percent of defendants sentenced in federal court for dealing crack, but only 27 percent of those sentenced for dealing powder cocaine, according to 2006 federal statistics. Each year, federal courts handle about 11,000 cocaine sentences, which are roughly evenly divided between crack and cocaine cases.
The issue long has been a source of contention between government prosecutors and civil rights advocates, who argue crack dealers are often targeted for longer prison terms because that drug is prevalent in urban and minority communities, while the powdered version is more commonly associated with higher-income users.
Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took a practical approach, saying it is important to preserve judicial discretion, while ensuring most sentences remain within federal guidelines established two decades ago to ensure a measure of uniformity.
Ginsburg said a federal judge was right to give a crack offender a lesser prison term than the guidelines called for, since federal law "mandates only maximum and minimum sentences," she wrote. "It says nothing about appropriate sentences within those statutory guidelines."
Ginsburg noted the trial judge "honed in on the particular circumstances of Kimbrough's case and accorded weight to" reports by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that show "the crack/powder disparity yields unjustifiably harsh sentences for crack offenders."
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented in the Kimbrough case. Thomas said it will now be up to courts "to assume the legislative role of devising a new sentencing scheme," something Congress never intended.
The government had no immediate reaction to the high court's ruling.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission -- an independent federal agency that advises all three branches of government on sentences -- recently cut the gap in recommended prison time for crack-cocaine offenses. The guidelines took effect November 1 after Congress decided not to overturn the changes.
The commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to make those guidelines retroactive for prisoners convicted in the past of crack dealing.
Almost 20,000 inmates could be eligible for shorter sentences under the proposed changes.
Congress recently has introduced at least four bills that would reduce the current disparity in cocaine sentences. One widely circulated proposal led by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, would revise the cocaine ratio downward to 20-to-1. That ratio is also supported by the Sentencing Commission.
Harsher sentences for crack offenses came after a social epidemic of crack cocaine began destroying many urban areas in the 1980s.
"The crack-cocaine guidelines were put in place because crack was fueling crime waves across the country, in particular with respect to street violence," said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami who comments on legal matters for CNN. "And it is clear that crack cocaine and white powder cocaine had a very different impact in terms of not only the lives of the users but the impact on the community."
The case is Kimbrough v. U.S. (06-6330).
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:10 PM PST
Thursday, 6 December 2007
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