Civil Rights Division » About The Division STATUTES ENFORCED BY THE CRIMINAL SECTION

U.S. Code Provision

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CIVIL RIGHTS CONSPIRACY

18 U.S.C. § 241 Conspiracy Against Rights Section 241 makes it unlawful for two or more persons to agree to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in the United States in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States or because of his or her having exercised such a right.

Unlike most conspiracy statutes, §241 does not require, as an element, the commission of an overt act.

The offense is always a felony, even if the underlying conduct would not, on its own, establish a felony violation of another criminal civil rights statute.  It is punishable by up to ten years imprisonment unless the government proves an aggravating factor (such as that the offense involved kidnapping aggravated sexual abuse, or resulted in death) in which case it may be punished by up to life imprisonment and, if death results, may be eligible for the death penalty.

Section 241 is used in Law Enforcement Misconduct and Hate Crime Prosecutions. It was historically used, before conspiracy-specific trafficking statutes were adopted, in Human Trafficking prosecutions.

LAW ENFORCEMENT MISCONDUCT

 18 U.S.C. § 242 Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law This provision makes it a crime for someone acting under color of law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. It is not necessary that the offense be motivated by racial bias or by any other animus.

Defendants act under color of law when they wield power vested by a government entity.  Those prosecuted under the statute typically include police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and prison guards.  However other government actors, such as judges, district attorneys, and other public officials, can also act under color of law and can be prosecuted under this statute.

Section 242 does not criminalize any particular type of abusive conduct.  Instead, it incorporates by reference rights defined by the Constitution, federal statutes, and interpretive case law.  Cases charged by federal prosecutors most often involve physical or sexual assaults.  The Department has also prosecuted public officials for thefts, false arrests, evidence-planting, and failing to protect someone in custody from constitutional violations committed by others.

A violation of the statute is a misdemeanor, unless prosecutors prove one of the statutory aggravating factors such as a bodily injury, use of a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, death resulting, or attempt to kill, in which case there are graduated penalties up to and including life in prison or death.

HATE (BIAS-MOTIVATED) CRIMES

18 U.S.C. § 249 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act Section 249 prohibits willfully causing bodily injury, or attempting to cause bodily injury with a dangerous weapon, when the crime was committed because of

  1.  the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin of any person;
  2.  the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person and the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce (ICC); or
  3.  any of these characteristics (actual or perceived) if the crime occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction (SMTJ).

There is no need to prove ICC or SMTJ for the first subsection because jurisdiction for enactment is based upon the Thirteenth Amendment.  For this reason, only those religions and national origins considered to be “races” at the time the Thirteenth Amendment was enacted may be prosecuted without proof of ICC or SMTJ.  See § 249, Findings, § (8).

A conviction carries a statutory maximum of ten years imprisonment; if death results, or if the defendant’s actions include aggravating factors such as kidnapping, sexual abuse, or death resulting from the offense, the offense may be punishable by imprisonment for any term of years or for life.

A prosecution may not be undertaken without written certification from the AG, or his designee, that (1) the state does not have jurisdiction, (2) the state has requested that the federal government assume jurisdiction, (3) the verdict or sentence obtained by the state left the federal interest demonstrably un-vindicated, or (4) prosecution is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

18 U.S.C. § 247 Damage to Religious Real  Property (sometimes called the

“Church Arson Prevention Act”)

Section 247 prohibits intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious real property because of the religious nature of the property, so long as the crime is committed in or affects interstate or foreign commerce (ICC).

The statute also prohibits anyone from intentionally obstructing or attempting to obstruct, by force or threat of force, a person in the enjoyment of that person’s religious beliefs, where the crime is in or affecting ICC.

Finally, the statute prohibits anyone from intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying any religious real property because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of any individual associated with the property, regardless of any connection to ICC.

Section 247 also prohibits attempts to do any of the above.

A violation of the statute is a misdemeanor unless prosecutors prove one of the statutory aggravating factors such as a bodily injury, use of a dangerous weapon, kidnapping , aggravated sexual abuse , death resulting from the offense, or attempt to kill, in which case there are graduated penalties up to and including life in prison or death.

A prosecution may not be undertaken without written certification from the AG, or his designee, that prosecution is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

 

18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2) Federally Protected Activities Subsection (b)(2) of § 245, which is primarily enforced by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, makes it unlawful to willfully injure, intimidate or interfere with any person –or to attempt to do so — by force or threat of force, because of that other person’s race, color, religion or national origin and because of the person has been doing one of the following:

  • Enrolling in or attending public school or college
  • Participating In or enjoying a service, privilege, program, facility or activity provided or administered by a state or local government
  • Applying for or enjoying private or state employment
  • Serving as a grand or petit juror in state court (or going to court in preparation to do so)
  • Traveling or using a facility of interstate commerce or common carrier.
  • Patronizing a place of public accommodation or place of exhibition or entertainment, including hotels, motels, restaurants, lunchrooms, bars, gas stations, theaters, concert halls, sports arenas or stadiums.

This statute also prohibits willful interference, by force or threat of force, with a person because he/she is or was participating in, or aiding or encouraging other persons to participate in, any of the benefits or activities listed above – or in any of the federal benefits (such as the right to vote or seek federal employment) listed in § 245(b)(1) of the statute — without discrimination as to race, color, religion, or national origin.

A violation of the statute is a misdemeanor unless prosecutors prove one of the statutory aggravating factors such as a bodily injury, use of a dangerous weapon, kidnapping , aggravated sexual abuse, death resulting from the offense, or attempt to kill, in which case there are graduated penalties up to and including life in prison or death.

A prosecution may not be undertaken without written certification from the AG, or an AAG to whom the AG has specifically delegated the power, that prosecution is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

 

42 U.S.C. § 3631 Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing Section 3631 makes it unlawful for an individual to use force or threaten to use force to injure, intimidate, or interfere with, or attempt to injure, intimidate, or interfere with, any person’s housing rights because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

Among those housing rights enumerated in the statute are: 1) the sale, purchase, or rental of a dwelling, 2) the occupation of dwelling, 3) the financing of a dwelling, 4) contracting or negotiating for any of the rights enumerated above, and 5) applying for or participating in any service, organizations, or facility relating to the sale or rental of dwellings.

This statute also makes it unlawful to use force or threaten to use force to injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person who is assisting an individual or class of persons in the exercise of their housing rights.

A violation of the statute is a misdemeanor unless prosecutors prove one of the statutory aggravating factors such as a bodily injury, use of a dangerous weapon, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, death resulting, or attempt to kill, in which case there are graduated penalties up to and including life in prison.

 

FREEDOM OF ACCESS TO CLINIC ENTRANCES (FACE)

18 U.S.C. § 248 FACE Section 248 makes it unlawful for a person to use force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure or intimidate a person because he or she is or has been obtaining or providing reproductive health services.

Section 248 also makes it unlawful for a person to use force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure or intimidate a person because he or she is lawfully exercising the right of religious freedom at a place of worship.

Finally, Section 248 makes it unlawful for a person to intentionally damage or destroy the property of a facility because it provides reproductive health services, or because it is a place of worship. Section 248 also prohibits anyone from attempting to commit any of the above.

The term “reproductive health care facility,” includes both facilities that provide abortions as well as facilities that provide alternative counseling.

In the absence of aggravating factors, a first offense under this statute is a misdemeanor punishable by six months imprisonment for a non-violent obstruction offense, and up to a year for an offense involving force or threats.  A second offense (committed after conviction on a different FACE offense) is punishable by up to eighteen months in prison for a non-violent obstruction offense and by up to three years in prison for an offense involving force or threats.  If bodily injury results, then the penalty is increased to up to ten years.  If death results, the penalty may be up to life imprisonment.

 

PEONAGE, SLAVERY AND TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS

18 U.S.C. § 1589 Forced Labor Section 1589 makes it unlawful to knowingly provide or obtain the labor or services of a person through one of the following prohibited means:

a.  Force, physical restraint, or threats of force or restraint to the victim or another

b.   Serious harm or threats of serious harm to the victim or another

c.   Abuse or threatened abuse of law or legal process

d.   Any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause victims to believe that the victim or another would suffer serious harm or physical restraint if he/she did not perform labor/services.

Section 1589 also makes it a crime to benefit, financially or by receiving anything of value, from a venture that has engaged in conduct described in the paragraph above, knowing or in reckless disregard that the venture has provided or obtained the labor or services of a person using any of the listed prohibited means.

The statute specifies that “serious harm” may include physical or non-physical harm, including psychological, financial or reputational harm that is sufficiently serious to compel a reasonable person of the same background and circumstances as the victim to perform the labor or services in order to avoid the harm.

The offense is a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, or up to life if the violation involves a statutory aggravating factor such as death resulting from the offense, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1590 Trafficking with respect to peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude, or forced labor Section 1590 makes it a crime to recruit, harbor, transport, provide or obtain a person by any means for labor or services in violation of Chapter 77 of U.S. Code Title 18 (covering crimes of peonage, slavery and trafficking in persons.)

The Section also punishes any person who obstructs, attempts to obstruct, interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this section.

The offense is a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, or up to life if the violation involves a statutory aggravating factor such as death resulting from the offense, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

18 U.S.C. § 1591 Sex Trafficking of Children or by Force, Fraud, or Coercion Section 1591 criminalizes sex trafficking of children or of anyone by force fraud or coercion, in or affecting interstate commerce or within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United State.

Sex trafficking is defined as recruiting, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, advertising, maintaining, patronizing, or soliciting a person to engage in a commercial sex act – or benefitting financially from participating in a venture that does so.  The conduct is prohibited under this section where the trafficked person is a minor or where the trafficking conduct involves prohibited means:

  • The defendant knew or recklessly disregarded that force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion will be used to cause the victim to engage in the sex act OR
  • The defendant knew or recklessly disregarded that the victim was under the age of 18

A commercial sex act means any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.  A venture is defined as any group of two or more individuals associated in fact.

Section 1591 contains a special evidentiary provision whereby the prosecution need not prove knowledge or reckless disregard when the victim is a juvenile and the defendant had an opportunity to observe the victim.  This provision does not apply to cases that involve only benefiting financially or receiving anything of value.

The punishment is a fine and a minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment up to life if the conduct described above either involves a victim who is under the age of 14 or involves force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion.  Otherwise the punishment is a fine and a minimum of ten years imprisonment up to life.

Section 1591 also punishes any person who obstructs, attempts to obstruct, interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this statute with a fine, imprisonment up to 20 years or both.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1581 Peonage Section 1581 prohibits holding or returning a person to a condition of peonage, or arresting a person with intent to place or return him into a condition of peonage.

Peonage is defined as compelling someone to work against their will for payment of a debt.  Compulsion must be through force, the threat of force, physical restraint, or abuse or threatened abuse of law (imprisonment).  Section 1581 also prohibits obstructing, attempting to obstruct, interfering with or preventing enforcement of the above statute.

The offense is a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, or up to life if the violation involves a statutory aggravating factor such as death resulting from the offense, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1584 Involuntary Servitude Section 1584 makes it unlawful to sell or hold a person in a condition of involuntary servitude.  This requires that the victim be forced into labor by force, threats of force, restraint, or legal coercion.

The offense is a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, or up to life if the violation involves a statutory aggravating factor such as death resulting from the offense, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

Section 1584 also punishes any person who obstructs, attempts to obstruct, interferes with or prevents the enforcement of this statute with a fine, imprisonment up to 20 years or both.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1592 Unlawful Conduct with Respect to Documents Section 1592 makes it illegal to destroy, conceal, remove, confiscate, or possess certain documents of another person in the course of a violation of or with intent to violate certain slavery and trafficking statutes, or to prevent or restrict, or attempt to prevent or restrict, the movement or travel of a current or former victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons in order to maintain the labor or services of that person.  The statute applies to documents that are actual or purported passports, other immigration documents, or other government identification documents.

The statute also prohibits obstructing or attempting to obstruct, interfering with or preventing the enforcement of this section.

A victim of a “severe form of trafficking in persons” is defined in the civil victim protection provisions of the TVPA at 22 U.S.C. § 7102(9).The statute does not apply to the conduct of a victim of severe forms of trafficking in persons if that conduct is caused by or incident to that victimization.

The penalty for violating the statute is up to five years imprisonment.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1593 Mandatory Restitution This statute provides for mandatory restitution for trafficking victims in the “full amount of the victims losses” as determined by the court, and in addition to any other civil or criminal penalties.

 

18 U.S.C. § 1593A Benefiting financially from peonage, slavery, and trafficking in persons This statute penalizes any person who benefits financially or receives anything of value from participation in a venture which has engaged in violations of §§ 1581(a) [peonage], 1592 [unlawful conduct with respect to documents], or 1595(a), knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the venture has engaged in this violation.

The penalty for a violation of this statute is the same as for a completed violation of the underlying section.

18 U.S.C. § 1594(a) Attempts This statute penalizes attempts to violate specified sections of Chapter 77, including Sections 1589 and 1591, the most commonly-charged trafficking statutes.  The penalty is the same as for a completed crime.
18 U.S.C. § 1594(b) and (c) Conspiracy These subsections of Section 1594 penalize conspiring to violate specified sections of the Chapter 77.

The penalty for conspiracy is punishable to the same extent as for the underlying violations, except in the case of § 1591 (sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud or coercion); there is no mandatory minimum for conspiracy to violate § 1591.

18 U.S.C. § 1594(d) and (e) Forfeiture This statute requires forfeiture of property used during the commission of a trafficking crime or which constitutes proceeds of such a crime.
18 U.S.C. § 1596 and

18 U.S.C. § 3271

Extra-territorial jurisdiction § 1596 gives extraterritorial jurisdiction over specified violations of Chapter 77, and over attempts and conspiracies to commit those offenses, if the alleged offender is a national or lawful permanent resident of the United States, or if the alleged offender is present in the United States.

For conduct that occurred prior to enactment of § 1596 or that is not covered by that section, § 3271 is available to prosecute extraterritorial violations of Chapter 77 (peonage, slavery and trafficking in persons) and Chapter 117 (transportation for illegal sexual activity) committed by individuals employed by or accompanying the federal government.

Related criminal statutes used to prosecute human traffickers Multiple Statutes In order to obtain justice against individuals involved in human trafficking, the Division makes use of a range of related criminal statutes.  The Division does not prosecute these statutes in every case in which they are violated, but only where there is evidence of a victim of severe forms of trafficking in persons.  Examples of related statutes commonly used to prosecute human traffickers include:

18 USC § 2421 – Transportation or attempted transportation of a person in interstate or foreign commerce, with intent that the person engage in prostitution or other sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a crime, is punishable by a fine or up to ten years’ imprisonment or both.

18 USC § 2422 – Transportation of a minor in interstate or foreign commerce, with intent that the minor engage in prostitution or other sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a crime, is punishable by a fine and a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment or for life.  This section also prohibits travel in interstate and foreign commerce with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct involving children; engaging in such illicit sexual conduct in foreign places; and facilitating such travel.  These offenses are punishable by a fine or up to 30 years’ imprisonment, or both.  Attempts and conspiracy to violate this section are punishable to the same extent as the underlying violation.

18 USC § 1351 – Fraud in foreign labor contracting involves the use of materially false or fraudulent pretenses to recruit a person outside the United States for employment in the United States or for employment outside the United States on a US government contract, military installation or mission.  This violation is punishable by a fine or up to five years’ imprisonment, or both.

18 USC § 1546 – Fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents.

8 USC § 1324 – Bringing and harboring certain aliens.  This section describes violations related to smuggling, harboring and hiring for employment of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.  Penalties range from a fine and imprisonment for not more than one year up to life imprisonment or death, depending on the conduct and on the presence of aggravating factors.

8 USC § 1328 – Importation of alien for immoral purpose.  This section punishes any person who imports or holds, or so attempts, or keeps, maintains, controls, supports or harbors an alien for the purpose of prostitution or any other immoral purpose.  The penalty is a fine, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.

Updated July 28, 2017

LAW ENFORCEMENT MISCONDUCT

INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS

The Department of Justice (“The Department”) vigorously investigates and, where the evidence permits, prosecutes allegations of Constitutional violations by law enforcement officers. The Department’s investigations most often involve alleged uses of excessive force, but also include sexual misconduct, theft, false arrest, and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs or a substantial risk of harm to a person in custody. These cases typically involve police officers, jailers, correctional officers, probation officers, prosecutors, judges, and other federal, state, or local law enforcement officials. The Department’s authority extends to all law enforcement conduct, regardless of whether an officer is on or off duty, so long as he/she is acting, or claiming to act, in his/her official capacity.

In addition to Constitutional violations, the Department prosecutes law enforcement officers for related instances of obstruction of justice. This includes attempting to prevent a victim or witnesses from reporting the misconduct, lying to federal, state, or local officials during the course of an investigation into the potential misconduct, writing a false report to conceal misconduct, or fabricating evidence.

The principles of federal prosecution, set forth in the United States Attorneys’ Manual (“USAM”), require federal prosecutors to meet two standards in order to seek an indictment.

First, the government must be convinced that the potential defendant committed a federal crime. Second, the government must also conclude that the government would be likely to prevail at trial, where the government must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. SeeUSAM § 9-27.220.[1]


[1] The USAM provides only internal Department of Justice guidance. It is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any matter civil or criminal. Nor are any limitations hereby placed on otherwise lawful litigative prerogatives of the Department of Justice.

 

ABOUT THE LAW ENFORCEMENT MISCONDUCT STATUTE

The federal criminal statute that enforces Constitutional limits on conduct by law enforcement officers is 18 U.S.C. § 242. Section 242 provides in relevant part:

“Whoever, under color of any law, …willfully subjects any person…to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States [shall be guilty of a crime].”

Section 242 is intended to “protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and furnish the means of their vindication.” Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91, 98 (1945) (quoting legislative history).

To prove a violation of § 242, the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) that the defendant deprived a victim of a right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, (2) that the defendant acted willfully, and (3) that the defendant was acting under color of law. A violation of § 242 is a felony if one of the following conditions is met: the defendant used, attempted to use, or threatened to use a dangerous weapon, explosive or fire; the victim suffered bodily injury; the defendant’s actions included attempted murder, kidnapping or attempted kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse or attempted aggravated sexual abuse, or the crime resulted in death. Otherwise, the violation is a misdemeanor.

Establishing the intent behind a Constitutional violation requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the law enforcement officer knew what he/she was doing was wrong and against the law and decided to do it anyway. Therefore, even if the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual’s Constitutional right was violated, § 242 requires that the government prove that the law enforcement officer intended to engage in the unlawful conduct and that he/she did so knowing that it was wrong or unlawful. See Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91, 101-107 (1945). Mistake, fear, misperception, or even poor judgment does not constitute willful conduct prosecutable under the statute.

Physical Assault

In cases of physical assault, such as allegations of excessive force by an officer, the underlying Constitutional right at issue depends on the custodial status of the victim. If the victim has just been arrested or detained, or if the victim is being held in jail but has not yet been convicted, the government must, in most cases, prove that that the law enforcement officer used more force than is reasonably necessary to arrest or gain control of the victim. This is an objective standard dependant on what a reasonable officer would do under the same circumstances. “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-97 (1989).

If the victim is a convicted prisoner, the government must show that the law enforcement officer used physical force to punish , retaliate against, an inmate, or otherwise cause harm to the prisoner, rather than to protect the officer or others from harm or to maintain order in the facility. See Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986).

Sexual Misconduct

Law enforcement officers who engage in nonconsensual sexual contact with persons in their custody deprive those persons of liberty without due process of law, which includes the right to bodily integrity. The Department investigates and prosecutes instances of nonconsensual sexual misconduct committed by patrol officers, federal and state probation officers, wardens, and corrections officers, among others. Sexual misconduct includes, but is not limited to, sexual assault without consent (rape), sexual contact procured by force, threat of force or coercion, and unwanted or gratuitous sexual contact such as touching or groping.

To prove that a law enforcement officer violated a victim’s right to bodily integrity, the government must prove that the victim did not consent to the defendant’s actions. Prosecutors can establish lack of consent or submission by showing that the defendant officer used either force or coercion to overcome the victim’s will. It is not necessary to prove that the defendant used actual violence against the victim. Coercion may exist if a victim is told that an officer will bring false charges or cause the victim to suffer unjust punishment.

Deliberate Indifference to a Serious Medical Condition or a Substantial Risk of Harm

Section 242 prohibits a law enforcement officer from acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to persons in custody. Therefore, an officer cannot deliberately ignore a serious medical condition of or risk of serious harm (such as a risk that an inmate will be assaulted by other inmates or officers) to a person in custody.  To prove deliberate indifference, the government must prove that the victim faced a substantial risk of serious harm; that the officer had actual knowledge of the risk of harm; and that the officer failed to take reasonable measures to abate it.

Failure to Intervene

An officer who purposefully allows a fellow officer to violate a victim’s Constitutional rights may be prosecuted for failure to intervene to stop the Constitutional violation. To prosecute such an officer, the government must show that the defendant officer was aware of the Constitutional violation, had an opportunity to intervene, and chose not to do so. This charge is often appropriate for supervisory officers who observe uses of excessive force without stopping them, or who actively encourage uses of excessive force but do not directly participate in them.

Updated July 28, 2017
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HATE CRIME LAWS

ABOUT HATE CRIMES

Since 1968, when Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the first federal hate crimes statute, the Department of Justice has been enforcing federal hate crimes laws.  The 1968 statute made it a crime to use, or threaten to use, force to willfully interfere with any person because of race, color, religion, or national origin and because the person is participating  in a federally protected activity, such as public education, employment, jury service, travel, or the enjoyment of public accommodations, or helping another person to do so.  In 1968, Congress also made it a crime to use, or threaten to use, force to interfere with housing rights because of the victim’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; in 1988, protections on the basis of familial status and were added.  In 1996, Congress passed the Church Arson Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 247.  Under this Act, it is a crime to deface, damage, or destroy religious real property, or interfere with a person’s religious practice, in situations affecting interstate commerce.  The Act also bars defacing, damaging, or destroying religious property because of the race, color, or ethnicity of persons associated with the property.

In 2009, Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding the federal definition of hate crimes, enhancing the legal toolkit available to prosecutors, and increasing the ability of federal law enforcement to support our state and local partners.  This law removed then existing jurisdictional obstacles to prosecutions of certain race- and religion-motivated violence.,, and added new federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.  Before the Civil Rights Division prosecutes a hate crime, the Attorney General or someone the Attorney General designates must certify, in writing, that (1) the state does not have jurisdiction; (2) the state has requested that the federal government assume jurisdiction; (3) the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to state charges did not demonstratively vindicate the federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence; or (4) a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.  In the seven years since the passage of the Shepard-Byrd Act, the Justice Department has charged 72 defendants and convicted 45 defendants under this statute.  In total, as of July 15, 2016, the department has charged 258 defendants for hate crimes under multiple statutes over the last seven years.

 

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, 18 U.S.C. § 249 The Shepard Byrd Act makes it a federal crime to willfully cause bodily injury, or attempt to do so using a dangerous weapon, because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin. The Act also extends federal hate crime prohibitions to crimes committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person, only where the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.  The Shepard-Byrd Act is the first statute allowing federal criminal prosecution of hate crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing, 42 U.S.C. § 3631 This statute makes it a crime to use, or threaten to use force to interfere with housing rights because of the victim’s race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.
Damage to Religious Property, Church Arson Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 247 This statute prohibits the intentional defacement, damage, or destruction of religious real property because of the religious nature of the property, where the crime affects interstate or foreign commerce, or because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of the people associated with the property.  The statute also criminalizes the intentional obstruction by force, or threat of force of any person in the enjoyment of that person’s free exercise of religious beliefs.

 

Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights, 18 U.S.C. § 245 This statute makes it a crime to use, or threaten to use force to willfully interfere with any person because of race, color, religion, or national origin and because the person is participating  in a federally protected activity, such as public education, employment, jury service, travel, or the enjoyment of public accommodations, or helping another person to do so.

 

Conspiracy Against Rights, 18 U.S.C. § 241 This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory, or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or the laws of the U.S.
Updated July 28, 2017

HATE CRIMES SUBCOMMITTEE

    On April 5, 2017, Attorney General Sessions released details about the Department’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. The Attorney General highlighted the importance of combating hate crimes by creating, as part of that overall Committee, a Hate Crimes Subcommittee. The Attorney General stressed in the statement he made announcing the Subcommittee’s creation:

We will not tolerate threats or acts of violence targeting any person or community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs or background. Accordingly, the Hate Crimes Subcommittee will develop a plan to appropriately address hate crimes to better protect the rights of all Americans.

     The Hate Crimes Subcommittee is led by Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore, and is made up of subject matter experts including career prosecutors in the Civil Rights Division, United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice. The Hate Crime Subcommittee also includes FBI agents with supervisory authority over hate crime investigations and FBI agents who oversee FBI’s hate crime data collection. The Subcommittee also includes members of DOJ’s Community Relations Service (CRS), who are community relations experts who are often deployed to communities in the wake of an incident, and experts from the COPS office, who are familiar with community orientated policing. Other experts from across the Department also will contribute their experience and expertise.

The Attorney General’s mandate to the Hate Crime Subcommittee is to take a hard look whether there is anything that the Department can do to improve reporting, investigation, and prosecution of hate crimes. The Hate Crime Subcommittee will both explore whether improvements can be made within the federal system and whether we can do more to assist our state and local partners. The Hate Crime Subcommittee will also examine hate crimes data collection.

As part of this mission, the Attorney General asked the Hate Crime Subcommittee to consult with the relevant stakeholders and gather suggestions on ways, big and small, that the Department might better investigate, prosecute, and prevent hate crimes. On June 29, the Hate Crimes Subcommittee will hold a one-day summit to foster a conversation around this topic. Stakeholders will also be afforded the opportunity to provide written suggestions. This summit will allow the members of the Subcommittee, identified above, to meet with stakeholders from across the community to get their input before making its recommendation to the Attorney General.

Updated August 30, 2017

NATIONAL SECURITY & DEFENSE Joined by Allies, President Trump Takes Action to End Syria’s Chemical Weapons Attacks

The devastating images that emerged from Douma, Syria, on April 7 reveal the unique and gruesome danger that chemical weapons pose to the world. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s latest attack on innocent civilians violated his regime’s obligations under international law, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and several United Nations Security Council Resolutions, including Security Council Resolution 2118.

It also represents human cruelty in its most depraved form. The Assad regime must be held accountable.

Speaking to the Nation last night, President Donald J. Trump explained that he ordered U.S. Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with Syrian chemical weapons capabilities. He thanked the United Kingdom and France for joining America in the operation, which will continue to pressure Syria to stop using chemical weapons by integrating the other instruments of our national power: economic, informational, and diplomatic.

“Today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality,” President Trump said. He emphasized the savagery of chemical attacks, with evidence from Douma documenting victims suffering from asphyxiation and foaming at the mouth.

“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air,” the President said. “These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead.”

Unlike the regime and its backers in Syria, the United States and its allies made every effort to minimize the risk of civilian casualties in their response. Yesterday’s strikes against Syrian facilities were legitimate, proportionate, and justified.

Most important, they were necessary. Chemical weapons are a unique danger to civilized nations not only because of their brutality, but because even small amounts can trigger widespread devastation. To prevent their spread, everyone must understand that the costs of using chemical weapons will always outweigh any military or political benefits.

America’s past failures to act undermined that goal. With each chemical attack that goes unpunished, dangerous regimes see an opportunity to expand their arsenal. That threat alone is grave enough, but the biggest hazard is that unstable governments cannot control these stockpiles. As state inventories of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons grow, so too does the likelihood that such weapons will fall into terrorist hands—and put American lives at risk.

President Trump made it clear that Assad’s enablers share culpability for his actions. “To Iran, and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?” President Trump said yesterday. “The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.”

The President’s comments come as the Trump Administration has taken new actions to confront destabilizing and malicious behavior by Russia, including tough sanctions on Russian oligarchs, government officials, and entities that support activities to undermine the United States, as well as the ejection of Russian intelligence operatives in response to Russia’s chemical weapons attack in Salisbury, England.

When it comes to Syria, “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path, or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace,” President Trump said.

The Administration has set clear terms for America’s involvement in the Middle East. Nation-building is not on the table; the protection of American interests is. President Trump said the United States is not seeking a long-term presence in Syria, nor will it renege establishing a strong deterrent against the use of chemical weapons. If a true, lasting peace is to be found in Syria, it will be the result of the full implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254 and the U.N.-led Geneva process rather than military means.

“In the last century, we looked straight into the darkest places of the human soul,” the President said. “By the end of the World War I, more than one million people had been killed or injured by chemical weapons. We never want to see that ghastly specter return.”


Remarks by CEA Chairman Kevin Hassett to New York Federal Reserve Bank ECONOMY & JOBS

As prepared for delivery by Kevin Hassett on April 23, 2018.

It is a pleasure to be here in New York today with you all to speak on the topic of situating Administration policy in a broader economic context, both in the U.S. and abroad. And it is an honor to be here in the presence of so many distinguished economists and policymakers.

Looking out at the crowd, I see many friends who I’ve known for years. And so I cannot help but be reminded of the first projects I worked on as an economist exploring the effects of policy changes on the economy. Being here takes me back to a time that was really only a few years ago—a few years, if you take the logarithm of the raw data, per the econometric conventions of the economics profession.

The econometric issue in question was a focus of mine in graduate school and as a faculty member at Columbia. It is the issue of how to generate causal estimates of the effect of policy changes. The intuition for this issue—one that as CEA Chair I can now confirm to be true—is that policy changes are not random. Policymakers formulate policy in response to current and expected economic conditions. Looking at correlations between policy variables and the trajectory of economic conditions would lead only to spurious estimates of how policy influences economic conditions. A correlation does not a causal estimate make. Moreover, the direction of the bias can tend to be non-random. Policies intended to reverse or mitigate bad economic conditions would appear to cause deteriorations in economic conditions. Think of it like this: Visits to the doctor would appear, based on a perusal of raw data on treatments and outcomes, to cause a downturn in one’s health.

I can remember that my first regression in this space in graduate school revealed that investment tax credits cause steep reductions in investment. Puzzling through a wrong-signed result, it rapidly became clear that ITC’s in the U.S. were almost always on during recessions. A large academic literature found that the user cost elasticity of investment was essentially zero. But policymakers tended to enact investment tax credits in response to current or expected downturns in economic conditions. Was the endogeneity of policy driving the result?

Indeed it was, as Alan Auerbach and I showed in one of my first publications. Alan Auerbach and I exploited the fact that the user cost of capital varies cross-sectionally when there is a tax reduction, but that this variation is surely inadvertent. Looking at the 1986 tax reform, Alan and I used this exogenous variation to generate a robust test of the predictions of the neoclassical model. We found the elasticity was not zero, but had the correct sign and might even be north of unity. The endogeneity of policy, unaccounted for in the previous literature, explained the apparent ineffectiveness of policy.

Only a few log(years) later, our inference that tax policy influences behavior seems to have stood the test of time. The capacity of economic research to identify the causal effects of variation in policy has also grown. The literature’s arc towards larger rather than smaller estimates of the effects of policy variables is all around us, and in the top journals. Consider, for instance, the emergence of what is called “the narrative approach” to identifying the effects of tax policy on economic activity. These methodologies harness advances in computational power and natural language processing to identify the stated motivations of the policymakers that Alan and I worried about only a few log(years) ago. While no single paper can be dispositive, consider that the February 2018 online issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics features an article that draws on this narrative approach to estimate an elasticity of personal income with respect to marginal tax rates. The paper’s headline estimates were north of 1 (1.2 to be exact)—very high by contemporary standards as well as those of the literature a few log(years) ago.

But the identification of causal effects from econometric estimates can require assumptions about the structure and functional form of relationships between a specified set of policy variables and measures of economic activity. That is in addition to the requirement, of course, that you have the relevant data at hand in the first place—a requirement typically only satisfied in hindsight. But we value knowing now whether the policy is working as intended. The observation of the variation in forecasts before and after a policy is changed offers one way of looking at the policy’s likely effects, just as Alan and I did in our first paper. And so, as we economists wait for evaluations of the effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on economic growth to percolate through the peer-review process and into academic journals, looking at changes in growth forecasts before and after the TCJA offers one way to gauge its expected effect on growth.

The evolution of recent forecast revisions is quite revealing, and consistent with the tax act having a large effect on growth expectations. If one looks, for example, at the Blue Chip consensus forecast for four-quarter real GDP growth in 2018 and 2019, it was roughly flat throughout most of 2017, as media coverage of the legislative prospects for the Administration’s economic agenda was generally pessimistic. Consensus forecasts through November 2017 were therefore low—2.3 to 2.4 percent in 2018 and 2.1 percent in 2019.

Since November, however, we’ve seen steady upward revisions in private forecasts. As of this month, the Blue Chip consensus forecast is now for 2018 growth of 2.8 percent, and 2019 growth of 2.3 percent, upward revisions of 0.5 and 0.2 percentage point since the tax act was passed. Official forecasts revisions suggest an even bigger bump. In its last forecast before the tax bill was passed, the Congressional Budget Office projected growth of 2.0 and 1.5 percent in 2018 and 2019. That has now been revised up substantially—to 3.3 and 2.4 percent, respectively. In other words, the CBO now projects growth to be more than a percentage point higher, on average, over the next two years than they did a year ago. In addition, over the same timeframe, the CBO revised up its forecast of projected corporate income tax receipts over the 2018-2027 period by $476 billion. Which exceeds the CBO’s own $409 billion static score of the TCJA. Ex ante, knowing only that the TCJA passed, based on my paper on corporate tax rates and the Laffer curve with Alex Brill, one could have predicted such a revenue increase.

Meanwhile, last summer, before the tax debate got seriously underway, the Federal Open Market Committee median forecast was for growth of just 2.1 and 1.9 percent in 2018 and 2019. That has since been revised up by 0.6 and 0.5 percentage point, respectively, with most of the upward revision occurring in December, as the tax bill made it over the legislative finish line.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund released its April 2018 World Economic Outlook (WEO). Global growth for 2018 was revised up 0.2 percentage point from its October WEO release to 3.9 percent year-over-year. The IMF attributes roughly half of the global growth revision to changes in U.S. fiscal policy. When honing in on the United States, the IMF’s April 2018 update to its October 2017 World Economic Outlook revised up its growth forecast by 0.6 percentage point from October to 2.9 percent year-over-year. According to the IMF, one reason for this upward revision is the macroeconomic effects stemming from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December.

The IMF’s April upwards revision to its October global growth forecast in the wake of the passage of the TCJA follows the OECD’s March upwards revision to its November global growth forecast. For the U.S., its 2018 outlook increased by 0.4 percentage point to 2.9 percent and its 2019 outlook increased by 0.7 percentage point to 2.8 percent. And the OECD’s March Economic Outlook cited as one of the “key factors behind the upward revision to global growth prospects in 2018 and 2019” the “tax reductions . . . announced in the last three months.”

I note in passing that these revisions are almost exactly what our analysis from last year implied they would be once the bill passes.

As for global growth, CEA’s own in-house analysis finds that exogenous tax changes in the world’s largest economy have large effects on global growth, suggesting the recent rise in growth expectations around the world is more the result of fiscal developments in the United States than the other way around. Applying the Romer & Romer exogenous tax shock series to a global structural vector autoregressive model indicates that a 1 percent cut in U.S. taxes as a fraction of GDP raises growth in the European Union by 0.8 percent in the year immediately following, with a peak impact of 1.2 percent after 2 years. We can reject the null hypothesis of no effect with 95 percent confidence. The estimated effect on the rest of the world is even bigger, with a peak impact after 2 years of 2.1 percent, and we can actually reject the null with 95 percent in both years 1 and 2.

While the mechanisms relating exogenous U.S. tax changes to global growth remain an open and, I believe, fascinating question for our ongoing work, the magnitude of the effect strongly suggests they extend far beyond the arithmetic relationship implied by the U.S. share of global GDP. Our own intuition is that other countries often learn from U.S. success, and adopt similar policies. Policy is endogenous, and successful policies are copied.

These forecasts are revised with an eye toward the literature that now rejects a user cost elasticity of zero. But don’t just believe the forecasts. You can already see the effects emerging in the data. Real private nonresidential fixed investment increased 6.3 percent during the fourth quarter of 2017, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Equipment investment rose 8.9 percent, thanks largely to the tax law’s allowance for full expensing of equipment investment retroactively to September 2017. In March 2018, the Morgan Stanley Composite Capital Expenditure Plans Index reached its highest level since it began tracking in 2006. The three-month moving average is up 34 percent since November 2017, the last month before the bill became law. Goldman Sachs’ capex tracker is similarly at a cycle high.

When the literature settles, I am sure that we will discover many patterns in the data that we did not expect. But if this investment boom continues as expected, I think you will all agree, it will mark an important and historic moment of success for economics as a science that guides policy.


Understanding the Threat

The United States today faces very real, very grave national security threats. Extremism and international terrorism flourish in too many areas of the world, threatening our warfighters, our allies and our homeland. Regional conflicts can have serious effects on U.S. national interests. Hostile foreign governments and terrorists trade in, or seek to acquire, weapons of mass destruction and/or the materials to produce them. Tons of illegal drugs are smuggled into our country each year.

The newest threats we face, and perhaps the fastest growing, are those in cyberspace. Cyber threats to U.S. national and economic security increase each year in frequency, scope and severity of impact. Cyber criminals, hackers and foreign adversaries are becoming more sophisticated and capable every day in their ability to use the Internet for nefarious purposes.

As a nation, we are dependent on the Internet – we use it for everything. We communicate online, bank and shop online, and store much of our personal information there. In business, education and government, we all count on having ready access to the Internet and its many capabilities as we go about our daily routines. The Internet opens up new worlds to users.

But while cyberspace offers great opportunities, it also comes with vulnerabilities. Our information networks and technology are constantly at risk from a variety of bad actors using a multitude of techniques – remote hacking intrusions, the placement of malware, spearphishing and other means of gaining access to networks and information.

Some of these bad actors are criminals motivated by profit, particularly in the areas of identity theft and other forms of financial cybercrime. The cost of cybercrime – already in the billions of dollars – rises each year.

But cyber threats also come from nation states and other actors who seek to exploit information to gain an advantage over the United States. They might seek an economic advantage, or to gain insight into our military or foreign policy. Denial of service attacks disrupt business and undermine confidence.

Terrorists and extremist groups today use the power of the Internet, especially social media, to spread their messages of hate and intolerance, and to recruit new members, often targeting vulnerable young people. The global reach of cyberspace and the complexity of its networks provide bad actors ample places to hide, safe from the reach of international law.

To meet these threats, our national leaders, military leaders, policy makers and law enforcement personnel must understand who our adversaries are, where they are, and what their capabilities, plans and intentions are. At the same time, we must ensure that we protect our own national security information from those who would do us harm. These are the capabilities that the National Security Agency provides to our nation, to our leaders and to our fellow Americans – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Date Posted: May 3, 2016 | Last Modified: May 3, 2016


NSA’s Innovative Cyber Tool: “Unfetter” Makes Cyber Better

Unfetter text-based logo

Cyber threats are real, growing, and among the biggest security challenges that public and private institutions face.

The internet and connected systems are interwoven into our daily lives – and our economy would not function without them. At the same time, such dependency introduces new and evolving cyber threats, placing networks at risk.

In this environment, knowing how to take advantage of cyber threat intelligence to help protect systems is critical. But all too often, such information is complex and difficult to use.

What if a suite of tools could offer these critical research insights to anyone, positioning decision-makers in various industries to incorporate network-protection techniques?

NSA developed such a solution with “Unfetter,” which is designed for collaborative communities.

It brings together network defenders and threat analysts to create, share, and use complex cyber threat intelligence to enhance decision-making.

How?

Unfetter creates a common lexicon to describe the intelligence for users’ consumption. It also includes an Analytic Exchange app that helps threat analysts publish and share analytics, encouraging collaboration.

Its Capability Assessment app helps network defenders assess security capabilities, critical controls, and analytics from the Exchange.

Additionally, Unfetter’s Threat Dashboard app helps threat intelligence analysts build detailed reports about threat actors’ behavior, attackers’ techniques, and the tools used. Threat intelligence teams can then track and share these reports with their customers.

Test it for yourself. The software can be downloaded and customized: www.unfetter.io.

At the National Security Agency, our mission is to help protect the nation 24/7/365. We are constantly innovating. We are constantly seeking new ways to outmaneuver adversaries who want to harm the United States and our allies.

Date Posted: April 24, 2018 | Last Modified: April 24, 2018


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