CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1994 //

Jacking in from the Continuing Education Port:

Washington, DC -- Law enforcement agencies need a good spin doctor. I hear Ed Rollins, ex-political consultant cum loudmouth is available. Reason: A story is breaking today about widespread abuse of evidence tampering. Seems cops in at least 7 different states have fabricated fingerprints to ice their cases.

You see, juries eat up fingerprint evidence. "It's one of the best tools we have... fingerprints are hard for a jury to ignore," according to a former law enforcement officer now serving time on Rikers Island for falsifying fingerprint evidence.

This is hardly the kind of PR that law enforcement agencies need right now, coming on the heels of their high visibility campaign to get the American public to buy into a tandem program (Clipper and Digital Wiretap Access), which, if successful, essentially means we put those outmoded, 200 year old notions of privacy on a slow boat to some Banana Republic.

In the past few weeks, top law enforcement agency spokesmen have lobbied hard for technologies that would allow them to "maintain the status quo" for snooping. These pleas for more eavesdropping power have immediately been followed with assurances that the public has nothing to fear: "These technologies will only help us catch more bad guys," we're told. Just have faith in the system.

And now this. Cops lifting fingerprints with the sole intent of transferring them to a crime scene in order to nail their main suspected perp. But the White House wants us to trust these guys with our privacy.

Remember, the Clipper chip keys can be obtained by *any* law enforcement agency. Right down to your local sheriff. But what if those good ol' boys accidentally fuck up the procedures? As Dispatch first reported, there's no recourse for the person being whipsawed by the process. Even if the cops blow the procedure big time ("Well, we were sure Hanging Judge McCallister would give us that warrant in the morning, 'spose we were wrong.") you can't petition the court to get that evidence dropped.

Now imagine that if Clipper equipped phones become as widespread as the White House hopes. What's to keep a law enforcement agency from intercepting incriminating evidence from one Clipper phone and then subsequently placing it in the home of their main perp?

What jury is going to argue with that kind of evidence. (Question: Does Clipper encryption change voice inflection? Tone? Course, none of that matters if they snag an ASCII file...)

Is this a fictional scenario? That's what several previous inmates thought, the ones put in the slammer when cops lifted fingerprints from a shot glass in a bar and neatly transferred them to the scene of a homicide. Hey, it's happened. Not once, but in 7 states.

Like I said, law enforcement needs a good spin doctor. They need someone with a knowledge of high tech and some credibility to get us to buy into this whole Clipper thing. Damn... too bad about that Spectrum-John Sculley thing... he would have been a good candidate and I hear he's looking for work.

Meeks out...