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January 2021
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Philadelphia Residents On The Hook For $9.8 Million For Putting The Wrong Man In Prison For 28 Years

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Plenty of people can ruin lives. But no one can ruin lives like cops and prosecutors.Look, we get it. Everyone likes an easy day at work. But when lives are on the line, the "easy" should be subservient to the "justified." But that's not what happens. When cops decide they like someone for a crime, "correct" is no longer a factor. You can't close a case file without a convicted perp. And closing a case apparently means more than being right, even if it means the real perp is still on the loose.So (to paraphrase the screw coming down on Paul Newman) you get what we have here: a perp. A perp who wasn't the actual killer, but still lost more than a third of his life expectancy to police and prosecutors eager to close a case. Who pays for this miscarriage of justice? Well, it's the same people who want for all the world to believe a miscarriage of justice will never occur: taxpayers.We want to believe cops want to protect us from violent criminals. The reality is opposed to this viewpoint. The cops want whoever they can hang a crime on, even if it's not the real criminal. And while cops go to bed feeling they've made us safer, real life shows us cops can sleep through the shittiest railroadings. So can prosecutors.In Philadelphia, taxpayers are being forced to cough up nearly $10 million to pay for the things that let terrible cops and worse prosecutors sleep the sleep of the righteous. Here's Jeremy Roebuck of The Philadelphia Inquirer, letting us know that horrendous things are being done in our names because it's being done with our tax dollars.

In one of the largest wrongful-conviction settlements in Philadelphia history, the city said Wednesday it will pay $9.8 million to a man exonerated after spending nearly three decades in prison for a murder he did not commit.
$9.8 million is not an insignificant amount of money. That's decent VC funding. That's a comfortable retirement for people who want to retire while they're still in their 30s. That's a monumental amount of cash. And this payout could have been avoided if anyone involved in the investigation had decided the perp that was "easiest" wasn't actually the murderer they were seeking.But no one did. And it cost an innocent man more than a third of his life.
Chester Hollman III was 21, with no criminal record and a job as an armored-car driver, when he was pulled over in Center City one night in 1991 and charged with the fatal shooting of a University of Pennsylvania student in a botched street robbery. A judge ordered him released last year at age 49, citing evidence that police and prosecutors built their case on fabricated statements from people they coerced as witnesses and later withheld evidence pointing to the likely true perpetrators of the crime.
This is what we get for supplying cops with outsized portions of city budgets. This is what we get for giving the law enforcement side of our lives outsized deference for years. This is what we get for accepting exonerative bullshit for years from cops and prosecutors. We give them an inch and they take 28 years off a man's life.$10 million is low. But it's all the city can do. As this report notes, cops and prosecutors have cost the city (and by the "city," I mean its taxpaying residents) more than $35 million in a little over two years.Is this acceptable? It shouldn't be. But those paying the fees for bad cops and worse prosecutors hold almost no power. Sure, they can vote with their expectations and wallets during local elections, but when push comes to courtroom shove, taxpayers are on the hook. They're expected to right the wrongs they never would have allowed to happen. It's their money on the line but they have no say in how it's spent.Garbage in. Garbage out. This payout isn't a record-setter. But that's only because many of those who dipped their investigative wick in this case were even more awful in the past.
His payout is just $50,000 short of the record for settlements of its kind in the city — a distinction held by the $9.85 million agreement the city struck in 2018 with Anthony Wright, a man who served nearly 25 years of a sentence for a 1991 rape and murder that DNA evidence proved decades later he did not commit. Several of the same investigators who worked to convict Wright were also involved in Hollman’s case.
Vomit in disgust, Philadelphia. Hold your enemies close. But hold your wallet even closer. The city supports bad cops and bad prosecutors. There's a progressive DA in office now, but the horrors of the past can still come and demand you pay for actions you'd never condone.We're paying for easy days at work. Taxpayers are asked to fund criminal "justice." But when they have their hands out, they refuse to specify they'll take the "justice" in scare quotes over real justice any day of the week.
One [witness] said officers had threatened her with arrest if she did not implicate Hollman. The other [witness] later said he had agreed to provide the false testimony in hopes of securing help with his own pending criminal case.
Keep your receipts, folks. Wave them in the faces of "more of the same" law enforcement candidates. Ask them why the easiest route to "justice" involves threatening witnesses and tilting the scale against people whose innocence is supposed to be presumed. Ask them how they sleep at night knowing they've sent innocent people off to prisons where crime is more rampant than the crime on the streets they're supposed to be policing. Ask them if they're cool subjecting people to violent rape and the loss of their freedom based on nothing more than a bunch of coercion. If they're cool with it, suggest they end their careers, if not their lives. They're not worthy of your respect, much less your tax dollars.We have a system that's supposed to protect the accused from an overbearing government. But far too often, it only shields the accusers and their busted inputs. For the rest of us on the outside, the only thing it means is higher tax rates and the use of our money to pay other citizens for being fucked by the government we've asked to never put us in this position.

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posted at: 12:00am on 06-Jan-2021
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Surprise! Singapore Backtracks On Privacy Pledge And Opens Contact Tracing Data To Police

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Singapore has a relatively long history when it comes to using modern technology to create a surveillance state within its borders. The monitoring of use of the internet and other digital services goes way back to 2002, sold to the citizenry as both an anti-terrorism bulwark and a tool to keep hate-speech at bay. Of course, though the populace as a whole seemed to take to the government's use of surveillance for a variety of reasons, Singapore also has a history of clamping down on any speech it simply doesn't like.At present, of course, surveillance of populations has increased worldwide, though in the form of contact tracing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. All sorts of technology and tools have been rolled out to accomplish effective contract tracing, with unfortunately far less emphasis put on securing the data of participants. It should go without saying that if contact tracing is going to be effective, it needs to be widely trusted and adopted. Any breaks in the links of the contact chain render it worthless. Which is probably why Singapore had assured its citizenry, when rolling out its plan for contact tracing using the TraceTogether app, that any data collected from it would be secured and used only for tracing purposes.

In its efforts to ease privacy concerns, the Singapore government had stressed repeatedly that COVID-19 data would "never be accessed unless the user tests positive" for the virus and was contacted by the contact tracing team. Personal data such as unique identification number and mobile number also would be substituted by a random permanent ID and stored on a secured server. Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan, also had insisted the TraceTogether token was not a tracking device since it did not contain a GPS chip and could not connect to the internet. He further noted that all TraceTogether data would be encrypted and stored for up to 25 days, after which it would be automatically deleted, adding that the information would be uploaded to the Health Ministry only when an individual tested positive for COVID-19 and this could be carried out only by physically handing over the wearable device to the ministry, Balakrishnan said.
The promises went on, including assurances that a very small number of contact tracers would have access to the data. This, again, was done specifically to increase the adoption in use of the app in order to get the pandemic in Singapore under control. The interests of public health ruled supreme, said the government.Those interests lasted mere months, however, now that the Singapore government has announced that law enforcement would get access to the data for any number of reasons, including for use in open investigations.
However, the Singapore government now has confirmed local law enforcement will be able to access the data for criminal investigations. Under the Criminal Procedure Code, the Singapore Police Force can obtain any data and this includes TraceTogether data, according to Minister of State for Home Affairs, Desmond Tan. He was responding to a question posed during parliament Monday on whether the TraceTogether data would be used for criminal probes and the safeguards governing the use of such data.He noted that "authorised police officers" may invoke the Criminal Procedure Code to access TraceTogether data for such purposes as well as for criminal investigation, but this data would, otherwise, be used only for contact tracing and to combat the spread of COVID-19.
It's hard to imagine any such assurances finding much purchase given the one-eighty the government already performed on its previous promises. Privacy advocates are crying foul, with ProPrivacy's Ray Walsh noting that the Singapore government appears poised to mandate the use of TraceTogether while also opening that data up to law enforcement, a scenario sure to breed distrust of the app during a global pandemic.
"This is extremely concerning considering that the government is planning to make the use of the TraceTogether app mandatory for all citizens," he said. "Test and trace systems forced on the general public for the purposes of preventing the spread of the pandemic have no right being used to create an extensive surveillance network, and it is extremely unnerving to see a soon-to-be mandatory app being exploited in this way."
As Churchill said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." One hopes that, when he said it, Churchill didn't have the creation of a mass surveillance tool excused by a pandemic in mind.

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posted at: 12:00am on 06-Jan-2021
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