Beware the FBI when it is not recording

Civil libertarians are used to sounding the alarm about pervasive government surveillance in the era of cellphones, drones and the Internet. But, as alleged Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s classmate Robel Phillipos is now discovering, an equal threat to liberty is the FBI policy forbidding recording of interviews.

My latest column, which ran in this Saturday’s (May 11th) Boston Globe, explains the danger faced by witnesses and defendants who talk to the FBI. You can find it on the Globe’s website.

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NightSide with Dan Rea

Last Wednesday, July 18, I appeared on CBS Boston's NightSide with Dan Rea, to discuss the plight of former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Sal DiMasi. DiMasi was convicted in 2009 of committing "honest services fraud," a vague and dangerous law, and is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence. As I discussed in a column in the Boston Phoenix earlier this month, DiMasi's treatment at the hands of the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been unconscionable. And, in light of his recent delayed cancer diagnosis, DiMasi's treatment amounts to a type of torture, with the sole purpose of softening him up to give testimony more favorable to the government before a grand jury sitting in Worcester.

My NightSide interview is a wide-ranging discussion of the DiMasi debacle, and can be found on the CBS Boston website.
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Kevin White, the Feds, and the press

On January 27th of this year, Kevin White, the man often credited with helping turn Boston into the modern city it is, died after a long illness. Since then, there have been a number of news reports and editorial commentaries discussing White’s sixteen year run as mayor, his subsequent career as a Boston University professor, and even the final years of his political life—capped as it was by seemingly endless federal corruption investigations that nailed a few underlings, but despite then-US Attorney (later governor) Bill Weld’s best efforts, never landed the “Great White.”

But missing from most of the coverage has been a description of how the press played handmaiden to Bill Weld’s prosecutorial apparatus and prevented Mayor White from pursuing a fifth term in office. In my post to ThePhoenix.com, I relate a number of stories of prosecutorial targeting and abuse that were largely ignored—and even aided—by the mainstream media at the time. It seems to me that these stories cry out to be told, uncomfortable as they may be for so many participants, myself included.

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Boston College Researchers Drink with the IRA, and Academics Everywhere Get the Hangover

Often the most precipitous modes of inquiry are the most vital. Certainly, that was how Anthony McIntyre and Ed Maloney felt when they founded the Belfast Project, a Boston College-based oral history project that would solicit candid narratives of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. The wound in Ireland is still raw, and it is therefore unsurprising that Belfast Project interviewees were promised that their stories would be kept secret until their deaths.

But last month, a federal judge in Massachusetts ordered Boston College to turn over many of the transcripts in order to aid with the police investigation into a forty year old unsolved murder in Ireland. In our piece this week on Forbes.com, Daniel Schwartz and I discuss the judge’s decision and argue that, while it pays lip service to the importance of academic freedom, it does not go nearly far enough to protect society’s interests and could end up setting a very unfortunate precedent for scholars engaged in sensitive research. 

Take a look at an excerpt of our piece after the jump, or read it in its entirety by clicking here

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A Boston neighborhood saved by a dog and a golfing judge


If Moritz Otto Bergmeyer—an architect and building renovator living in a refurbished former warehouse at 107 Fulton Street on the boundary between Boston’s Waterfront and North End neighborhoods—did not have to take his English sheep dog Sacha out to relieve herself early one Saturday morning in the spring of 1972, one of the premier historic neighborhoods of the City of Boston would no longer exist.
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