Financial Incentives for False Crime Lab Test Results

A recent analysis published in the Criminal Justice Ethics academic journal suggests when technicians perform forensic analysis of blood and other evidence for cases such as drunk driving, the results can be influenced by built-in financial incentives to produce a conviction. If false conviction rates are very low, a 3 percent error rate could put 33,000 innocent individuals behind bars (in the U.S.) every year.

The primary problem, according to the paper, is that fourteen states reward crime labs with a bonus for each conviction they generate. When there is a reward for a guilty result, a lab technician will not double-check test results that are in the guilty range, though he would be more likely to double-check results that show innocence.

For example, in 2009, a crime lab in Colorado Springs, Colorado was caught certifying at least 82 DUI blood tests with falsely high readings. A whistleblower in Washington, DC revealed in 2010 that the city had been using faulty breathalyzer machines for more than a decade.

View the full text at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0731129X.2013.817070

Erase Data with a Hammer

Flash-based solid-state drives nearly impossible to erase

Researchers from the University of California at San Diego delivered a paper at the FAST-11 Conference in San Jose, Calif., last week that shows it’s almost impossible to reliably erase data from a solid state drive.

The report, Reliably Erasing Data from Flash-Based Solid State Drives (PDF), goes through all of the known techniques for erasing data and they found the best method was a big hammer.

Internet Honeypots

 A honeypot is a trap set to attract (or detect) some manner of interaction with an information system.

FBI posts fake hyperlinks to snare child porn suspects

The FBI has recently adopted a novel investigative technique: posting hyperlinks that purport to be illegal videos of minors having sex, and then raiding the homes of anyone willing to click on them.

Undercover FBI agents used this hyperlink-enticement technique, which directed Internet users to a clandestine government server, to stage armed raids of homes in Pennsylvania, New York, and Nevada last year. The supposed video files actually were gibberish and contained no illegal images…

The implications of the FBI’s hyperlink-enticement technique are sweeping. Using the same logic and legal arguments, federal agents could send unsolicited e-mail messages to millions of Americans advertising illegal narcotics or child pornography–and raid people who click on the links embedded in the spam messages…

Civil libertarians warn that anyone who clicks on a hyperlink advertising something illegal–perhaps found while Web browsing or received through e-mail–could face the same fate.

When asked what would stop the FBI from expanding its hyperlink sting operation, Harvey Silverglate, a longtime criminal defense lawyer in Cambridge, Mass. and author of a forthcoming book on the Justice Department, replied: “Because the courts have been so narrow in their definition of ‘entrapment,’ and so expansive in their definition of ‘probable cause,’ there is nothing to stop the Feds from acting as you posit.”

Iranian HoneyPots

The Iranian authorities are creating a different type of honeypot to catch people who may object to the re-election of Ahmedinejad and his crowd.

Marked for Death by Twitter

But in recent days people believed to be members of the Iranian security apparatus have set up apparent decoy Web sites about the demonstrations to gather IP addresses that will allow them to locate the computer of anyone tricked into clicking on them. Others—again believed to be government agents—have begun what appears to be an active campaign to mis- and dis-inform through Twitter postings.

Read a Letter by Examining the Inside of its Envelope

Paul Kelly and colleagues at Loughborough University found that a disulfur dinitride (S2N2) polymer turned exposed fingerprints brown, as the polymer reaction was initiated from the near-undetectable remaining residues.

Traces of inkjet printer ink can also initiate the polymer. The detection limit is so low that details of a printed letter previously in an envelope could be read off the inside of the envelope after being exposed to S2N2.

“A one-covers-all versatile system like this has obvious potential,” says Kelly.

“This work has demonstrated that it is possible to obtain fingerprints from surfaces that hitherto have been considered extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain,” says Colin Lewis, scientific advisor at the UK Ministry of Defence. “The method proposed has shown that this system could well provide capabilities which could significantly enhance the tools available to forensic scientists in the future.”

Original article: Paul F. Kelly, Chem. Commun., 2008, DOI: 10.1039/b815742a

Provided by Royal Society of Chemistry