Today's LACP news:
March 9, 2014
Assange: More U.S. secrets will be leaked
The Wikileaks founder tells a U.S. audience, via video feed, that NSA spying revelations have caused people to reassess government's role.
by Adam Satariano
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who has disclosed classified data about U.S. military and diplomatic efforts, said the group would be releasing a new batch of secret information.
Assange, speaking through a video feed Saturday to a crowd of more than 3,000 at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, said he wouldn't share details about the timing or contents.
“I don't think it's right to give the perpetrator the heads up,” said Assange.
After years of celebrating startups with new social-networking tools for posting personal information, South by Southwest is taking a more critical look at the privacy consequences of sharing that data. Edward Snowden, the government contractor who leaked documents disclosing spying by the National Security Agency, speaks on Monday through a video link.
Assange, 42, said the disclosures about NSA spying are causing people to reassess the role of government in a world where more personal information is stored online. He said the U.S. agency is losing the public-relations battle since Snowden's revelations about gathering data from companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple. The disclosures show a “military occupation” in the Internet's “public space,” he said.
He said the release of classified information is critical to better understanding what the government is doing in secret.
Assange currently lives in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid arrest in relation to a sexual assault investigation. He has denied the charges.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said earlier that there needs to be a balance between transparency and security because the government information being disclosed could put lives at risk.
Rutgers students say they feel unsafe; campus police say public safety presence is increasing
Campus police: Safety presence is increasing
by Bob Makin
NEW BRUNSWICK — In the wake of the Feb. 15 slaying of Billy McCaw, the alleged mugging of a Rutgers student on March 1 on Richardson Street and misinformation being disseminated about patrol parameters of Rutgers University police, some university students say they are worried about their safety.
Off-campus housing needs better street lighting, and more patrol cars should be canvassing streets beyond Easton Avenue, the students said.
McCaw, a 22-year-old former Rutgers student, was found beaten to death outside 28 Hartwell St., three blocks from Easton Avenue and seven blocks from the university's College Avenue student center.
“I don't feel safe walking back to my apartment at night,” said Brittany Regner, a senior environmental business major from Baltimore, who lives beyond Easton. “Strangers make me feel unsafe. The university could make me feel safer by having more security off campus.”
Students' safety concerns recently were heightened when the New Brunswick Today website incorrectly reported that campus police no longer will be patrolling the city. Authorities responded by saying that the patrols not only remain intact but have been increased by the city in the neighborhood where McCaw was killed.
Regner said she also was concerned that the university didn't alert students of McCaw's death, even though he once was a student there.
McCaw had transferred to Kean University in Union and was back visiting friends in the city when he was killed.
“I feel like we weren't informed about something that happened two streets behind me,” Regner said. “Once you cross over Easton, it gets dangerous. There's nothing — no restaurants or nightlife anymore.”
Leah Haines, a junior art history major from Saddle River, added, “The lighting off-campus, the streets are not very well lit, especially if you're not near one of the hospitals or Easton Avenue. Everywhere else is very, very dark.”
Julia Jurist, a friend of McCaw's from his Rutgers days and a graduate student in the university's education program, said she was furious that the university never made an official statement about McCaw's death.
“People live right in that house where he was found,” said Jurist, a Senior Street resident raised in Millburn. “People live right next door to the house where he was found who go to Rutgers. It's considered commuting, but it's not really. Students live all around this area, and they should care more about the safety of their students, regardless of where they live.”
But students should realize that they are attending college in a city and should take appropriate precautions, said Marissa Ranft, a senior human resources major from Mount Arlington now living on Duke Street, three blocks beyond Easton Avenue from the College Avenue campus,
“It's not very dangerous typically,” she said. “When you go out at 2:30 in the morning, you take the risk, but during the day, it's fine. When you go to Rutgers, it's a big school with a lot of people. The bigger the school, the more danger there could potentially be. And it's in a city, so there's more crime typically in a city. But you know that going in.”
Rutgers University Student Affairs responded to McCaw's death by offering grief counseling and other support services to students, spokesman E.J. Miranda said. The Dean of Students, Campus Mental Health Services, Student Life, and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs continue to work together to provide assistance to individuals or groups of students seeking support, Miranda added.
In addition, the city has increased police presence in the Hartwell Street area and — with the assistance of the campus and the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office — led a neighborhood canvas that distributed 1,500 fliers and Crime Stoppers cards, Rutgers Police Chief Kenneth Cop said. The Prosecutor's Office also is offering rewards to help capture McCaw's killer.
Regner countered that in the two years since she has lived near Hartwell, she has seen police patrol practically vanish. She said she hasn't seen increased patrol since McCaw's death.
“I feel at a lot of times, there isn't enough patrol and safety on the streets at night, especially directly off campus,” added Sarah Conforti, a senior pre-law major from Franklin Lakes living on Sicard Street.
“When I was walking back home from a night out at one of the bars the other night, there was a huge group of about 75 students, and a huge brawl broke in a Rutgers parking lot,” Conforti added. “I don't know if it was students and people who live here locally. After the fight broke out, all of a sudden RUPD got involved. I feel like they anticipate and wait for something to happen, instead of actually patrolling and preventing conflict.”
Rutgers takes the safety of the university community very seriously and works with the New Brunswick Police Department to make Rutgers a safe environment in which to live, work and study, Cop said.
The Rutgers and New Brunswick police departments provide police coverage for the Rutgers community at all times, he said.
“The RUPD has implemented numerous programs, services and methods to protect students, staff and faculty,” Cop said.
They include increased public safety presence in the College Avenue area on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during the school year in an effort to deter criminal activity and provide additional public safety response if the need arises, the chief said.
Upon request, public safety personnel provide escorts to students, faculty and staff who wish to be accompanied to their vehicle, campus residence or the university's mass transit system, Cop said. About 2,700 security cameras with recording capability monitor the New Brunswick and Piscataway campuses, he added.
“The cameras serve both as a deterrent to crime and an investigative tool in the event of an incident,” he said.
Uncomfortable with crime
According to Rutgers' crime statistics (available at http://rupd.rutgers.edu/RUPD_files/NB Crimes.pdf), 45 forcible sex offenses, 43 aggravated assaults, and 258 burglaries and robberies took place between 2010 and 2012 on and off campus or on public property in New Brunswick and Piscataway. No homicides were reported, but a Rutgers student was murdered in 2011 in Union County.
Jurist said McCaw wasn't her first Rutgers friend to be attacked. Two years ago, a friend was robbed at gunpoint and beaten in his dorm room on Busch campus in Piscataway, she said. He subsequently left the school while dealing with emotional and physical issues related to the incident, Jurist said.
“He no longer goes to school here because he feels unsafe,” she said, adding that New Brunswick police caught the perpetrator. “He was reimbursed for anything that was stolen from him, so now he feels some justice, but it's still deeply affected his life.”
Cop said he wasn't aware of an alleged March 1 mugging of a Rutgers student on Richardson Street, and city police could not respond with documentation at press time. But several students confirmed the incident and expressed concern about it.
“On Saturday night, a man was jumped outside my house, two blocks off campus on Richardson Street between Wyckoff Street and Easton Avenue, right by St. Peter's University Hospital,” Haines said. “I always thought that was a very safe area to live. Knowing that someone was jumped right outside my house, I find it very uncomfortable.”
Ryan Fontanazza, a junior supply chain management major from Butler, added, “I never feel 100 percent safe, but definitely more safe on the Rutgers property than when you're back in the off-campus housing area of New Brunswick.”
Students take precautions
Haines, Conforti and several other Rutgers students said they take precautions by not walking alone, especially off campus at night.
“As a female student, I don't walk anywhere alone at night,” Haines said.
“I feel safe when I'm walking in groups, but I would never walk alone,” Conforti added.
Sophomore housemates Gavidov Hochsztein and Alison Billet, both from Teaneck but now living behind the College Avenue student center, said they often walk together to better ensure their safety.
“In terms of keeping safe, I exercise my own caution,” Hochsztein added. “The university police make me feel safe when I see them. Otherwise, I try not to be stupid.”
Sam Seelenfreund, a freshman business major from Teaneck living in a College Avenue Campus dorm, suggested that campus and city police print out and distribute safety literature directly to all students.
Campus police provide safety information at http://rupd.rutgers.edu/crimetips.shtml and annually publish “Safety Matters” at <http://publicsafety.rutgers.edu/rupd/RUPD_files/NB Crimes.pdf>, Cop said. “Safety Matters” is sent to the entire new Brunswick/Piscataway campus community by email, he said.
Campus police also work with the Office of Student Affairs to educate students about how to lessen their chances of being a victim of crime, Cop said.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Ticket purchase adds to mystery
by Jethro Mullen and Jim Clancy
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) -- Two people who traveled on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight under the passports of an Italian and an Austrian citizen appear to have bought their tickets together.
The tickets were bought from China Southern Airlines in Thai baht at identical prices, according to China's official e-ticket verification system Travelsky. The ticket numbers are contiguous, which indicates the tickets were issued together.
The new information adds to the mystery that has enveloped the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the passenger jet that disappeared over Southeast Asia early Saturday on its way to Beijing.
Italy and Austria have said that none of their citizens were on board the plane. And officials say the Italian and Austrian whose names were on the passenger manifest both had their passports stolen in Southeast Asia in recent years.
The two tickets booked with China Southern Airlines both start in Kuala Lumpur, flying to Beijing, and then onward to Amsterdam. The Italian passport's ticket continues to Copenhagen, the Austrian's to Frankfurt.
Authorities say they are investigating the identities of some of those on board who appear to have issues with their passports.
But for the anguished family members of the 239 people on board the Boeing 777-200ER, the agonizing wait goes on.
Big questions far outweigh the few fragments of information that have emerged about the plane's disappearance.
What happened to the plane? Why was no distress signal issued? Who exactly was aboard?
The passenger jet, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, may have changed course and turned back toward Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian military officials said at a news conference Sunday.
But the pilot appears to have given no signal to authorities that he was turning around, the officials said, attributing the change of course to indications from radar data.
Altogether forty ships and 22 planes were scouring a portion of the South China Sea on Sunday for any sign of where the flight, operated by Malaysia's flagship airline, might have gone down, Malaysian authorities said.
The large, multinational team is focusing its efforts near the Gulf of Thailand, part of the South China Sea that lies between several Southeast Asian countries.
The area in focus, about 90 miles south of Vietnam's Tho Chu Island, is the same one as where a Vietnamese search plane reportedly spotted oil slicks that stretched between six and nine miles.
Malaysian authorities have not yet confirmed the report of the oil slicks, which came from Vietnam's official news agency.
Late Sunday afternoon, Vietnam sent a boat to investigate a "strange object" spotted by a Singaporean search plane in the area, said Hung Nguyen with Vietnamese National Search and Rescue Committee.
As the search continues, relatives of those on board the plane continue to await news of the fate of their loved ones.
Among the passengers, there were 154 people from China or Taiwan; 38 Malaysians, and three U.S. citizens. Five of the passengers were less than 5 years old.
If all those on board the flight are found to have died, it will rank as the deadliest airline disaster since November 12, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed into a New York neighborhood, killing all 260 people on board and five more on the ground.
Passenger manifest questioned
A fuller picture of what happened may not become available until searchers find the plane and its flight data recorder.
"We have not been able to locate anything, see anything," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the director general of civil aviation in Malaysia, told reporters Sunday.
Confusion over who exactly was on the plane has drawn particular attention, notably the case of the Italian and Austrian passports.
The passport mystery raised concerns about the possibility of terrorism, but officials cautioned that it was still too early to arrive at any conclusions.
A U.S. intelligence official said that no link to terrorism had been discovered so far, but that authorities were still investigating.
Another possible explanation for the use of the stolen passports is illegal immigration.
There are previous cases of illegal immigrants using fake passports trying to get into Western countries. And Southeast Asia is known to be a booming market for stolen passports.
Malaysian authorities have been in contact with counterterrorism organizations about possible passport issues, Malaysia's transportation minister Hishamuddin Hussein said.
He didn't specify how many potential passport issues there were, saying authorities are looking at the whole passenger manifest.
The U.S. government has been briefed on the stolen passports and reviewed the names of the passengers in question but found nothing at this point to indicate foul play, said a U.S. law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Of the two passports in question, the Italian one had been reported stolen and was in Interpol's database, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Tom Fuentes said, citing sources at Interpol.
Additionally, no inquiry was made by Malaysia Airlines to determine if any passengers on the flight were traveling on stolen passports, he said. Many airlines do not check the database, he said.
Rahman, the Malaysian aviation official, declined to say whether the airline or Malaysian authorities had checked the database.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced late Saturday that a team of its investigators was en route to Asia to help with the investigation, the agency said.
Disappearing during cruise
But there is a precedent for a modern jetliner to fall from the sky while "in the cruise" and lay hidden for months, according to CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest.
On June 1, 2009, Air France flight 447 was en route from Rio De Janeiro to Paris' Charles de Gaulle International Airport when communications ended suddenly from the Airbus A330, another state-of-the-art aircraft.
It took four searches over the course of nearly two years to locate the bulk of flight 447's wreckage and the majority of the 228 bodies in a mountain range deep under the ocean. It took even longer to find the cause of the disaster.
In May 2011, the aircraft's voice recorder and flight data recorder were recovered from the ocean floor after an extensive search using miniature submersible vehicles.
It was not until July 2012 that investigators published their report, which blamed the crash on a series of errors by the pilots and a failure to react effectively to technical problems.