An investigative report published by ProPublica points to some flaws in the FBI’s conclusion that Ft. Detrick, Md. scientist Bruce Ivins was the culprit who mailed the deadly anthrax in 2001.
The investigation, conducted by ProPublica, PBS and McClatchy Newspapers, attempts to undercut a key theory that Ivins tried to deceive the FBI. The report points to samples Ivins provided from a flask in 2002 to the FBI. The FBI said tests failed to match the anthrax sent through the mail.
Later, the news report said, the FBI took its own samples from the flask and found matches to the deadly anthrax letters.
Authorities pointed to that as a key piece of evidence against Ivins, saying he was intentionally being deceptive to hide his guilt. Ivins committed suicide in July 2008, just before he was about to be charged.
Rachel Lieber, the lead prosecutor in a case that will never go to trial, thinks that Ivins manipulated his sample to cover his tracks, the news report said.
“If you send something that is supposed to be from the murder weapon, but you send something that doesn’t match, that’s the ultimate act of deception,” the lead prosecutor Rachel Lieber said in the report. “That’s why it’s so important.”
But the news agencies report that they “turned up new evidence that challenges the FBI’s narrative of Ivins as a man with a guilty conscience who was desperately trying to avoid being discovered.”
“Records recently released under the Freedom of Information Act show that Ivins made available a total of four sets of samples from 2002 to 2004, double the number the FBI has disclosed,” the news report said. “And in subsequent FBI tests, three of the four sets ultimately tested positive for the” anthrax.’
The report suggested that the positive samples turned over to the FBI was proof that Ivins was not trying to deceive the FBI.
Paul Kemp, Ivins’ lawyer, said the existence of Ivins’ additional submissions discredits a key aspect of the FBI case, the report said.
“I wish I’d known that at the time,’’ he said.
The Justice Department has repeatedly dismissed any reports challenging its conclusion that Ivins was the culprit. The agency has said that the conclusion was based on multiple factors.
Read full report.
A Manhattan federal judge who sentenced swindler Bernie Madoff has told the New York Times that he weighed different factors before handing out a 150 year sentence.
Madoff’s lawyer Ira Lee Sorkin had tried to convince U.S. District Judge Denny Chin,57, to give a far lesser sentence. He cited, according to the Times, Madoff’s move to tell his sons, knowing he’d be turned in. And he argued that Madoff, who was then 71, would live about 13 years. So he asked for 12 “just short of an effective life sentence.” The Times reported that Sorkin also proposed 15 to 20 years.
“It’s a fair argument that you want to give someone some possibility of seeing the light of day,” the judge told the Times, “so that they have some hope, and something to live for.”
He said he immediately rejected a 12 year sentence, but struggled with the idea of dishing out 20 to 25 years before ultimately concluding:
“In the end, I just thought he didn’t deserve it,” he told the Times. “The benefits of giving him hope were far outweighed by all of the other considerations.”
The Times also interviewed Madoff, who commented on the sentence.
“Explain to me who else has received a sentence like that,” Madoff said in a phone interview with the Times from prison in North Carolina. “I mean, serial killers get a death sentence, but that’s virtually what he gave me.”
“I’m surprised Chin didn’t suggest stoning in the public square,” he added.
OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST
- Former D.C. Council aide sentenced to eight months in prison (Washington Post)
- Ethics group calls for FBI investigation into Rep. Laura Richardson (Washington Post)
- Feds say lawsuit against Holder and Mueller over warrantless GPS tracking should be tossed (AP)
- FBI Investigates Powder Sent to Senators (NBC4)
- Summer Holiday Could Temp Terrorists, Officials Warn (CNN)
- Feds Show Fake Safety Records in WV Blasts (AP)
- Bulger Lawyer Blasts Prosecutors (AP)
- Woman Believes Chicago Beach Violence Covered Up (NBC Chicago)
- Obama Ignores Dem Choices for Tex. U.S. Attys.; Favors Republicans (Main Justice)
A high-profile Boston attorney who has represented mobsters and some big name clients was charged Wednesday with money laundering that included taking payments from an undercover DEA agent posing as a drug dealer from the Dominican Republic.
Authorities charged that attorney Robert A. George, 56, of Westwood, Mass., helped conceal $225,000 in drug proceeds over a period of time.
According to a government affidavit, a cooperating witness told George and a co-conspirator that he had large amounts of cash from drug trafficking.
Authorities alleged that on two separate occasions, George’s co-conspirator took the cash from the government informant in exchange for a check made payable to a fictitious undercover company. George’s co-conspirator then charged the government informant a substantial fee.
On another occasion, George allegedly took $25,000 in cash from an undercover DEA agent posing as a drug dealer client. George then made two separate deposits of that money, in amounts under $10,000 in order to avoid a reporting requirement, authorities said.
“Defense counsel play a critical role in the criminal justice system, protecting important constitutional rights upon which we all depend,” Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said in a statement. “But when an attorney assists in the criminal concealment and laundering of drug money — as is alleged in this case — it impedes the administration of justice and is an affront to all ethical and law abiding members of the bar.”
” If convicted, Mr. George is no better than those who distribute illegal drugs,” Special Agent in Charge of the Boston DEA, Steven Derr added.
By Allan Lengel For AOL News
A Canadian man promised the elderly a little piece of heaven. Instead, some lost their homes and life savings.
Today that man, Henry Anekwu, 43, of British Columbia, was sentenced in Los Angeles federal court to nine years in prison for fleecing dozens of elderly Americans of at least $600,000 in a lottery scam, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He was also ordered to pay $510,840 in restitution.
During sentencing, Judge John F. Walter said Anekwu showed no remorse for his victims, who suffered “devastating consequences” of his scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Authorities identified 79 victims.
The scam appeared to be a simple variation of the many overseas scams that promise millions of dollars in free money with the caveat that a tax or fee be paid up front.
To read more click here.
They may be brothers, but their attorneys seem to be mapping out conflicting strategies.
Robert Blogojevich, brother of ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, has filed a motion to keep FBI recordings from airing in their upcoming public corruption trial, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Brother Rod has indicated that he has nothing to hide and wants the jury to hear everything. They are charged with trading favors for campaign money and selling the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.
The Tribune reports that the attorney for Robert Blagojevich claims the FBI had no probable cause to make the recordings, and that there had been no indication that Robert traded favors for campaign contributions. Robert ran his brother’s campaign fund in 2008.
“Evidence of Robert Blagojevich soliciting campaign contributions on behalf of his brother, without proof of an explicit quid pro quo, is not remotely criminal, but, rather, exemplifies the American political process,” Robert’s attorney Michael Ettinger wrote, according to the Tribune.
To Read more click here.
WASHINGTON – A Justice Department document asks the simple question: Why Go Undercover on Facebook, MySpace, etc.?
Then it goes on to explain: “Communicate with suspects/targets” … “gain access to non-public info” … “map social relationships/networks.”
The document, part of a Justice Department PowerPoint presentation, shows how some federal and local law enforcement agents are quietly creating fictitious accounts on social networks like Facebook and MySpace to get dirt on suspected criminals. The presentation recently surfaced in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court.
Some federal and local law enforcement agents are quietly creating fictitious accounts on social networks like Facebook and MySpace to get dirt on suspected criminals
“This is just the way people meet these days — electronically,” James Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told AOL News. “It wouldn’t be any different than calling someone on the phone, say, in an undercover capacity. If we can meet them on Facebook by creating a fictitious account, that’s great. ”
Even so, the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco filed the lawsuit in December against about a half a dozen federal agencies to create a public dialogue on the matter and make sure agencies have guidelines for agents, according to Marcia Hofmann, a senior staff attorney for the foundation. The Justice Department, Homeland Security, Treasury, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are included in the suit.
Some agencies don’t readily appear to have guidelines and some have offered to produce them in coming months to satisfy the demands in the lawsuit, according to Hofmann.
“This on one hand is a very clever use of these tools, but it makes you wonder when enterprising agents come up with these ideas, what is appropriate and what is not,” she said. “I don’t want to speculate as to what they do and they don’t do. I do think there should be a public debate whether it’s ethically sound or not. There should be some transparency.”
Initially, social networks like MySpace, which first surfaced in 2003, and Facebook, which launched in 2004, and Twitter which arrived in 2006, were simply for hip high school and college-aged kids. As social media’s popularity soared, law enforcement began to realize that there was more to these networks than idle gossip and photos of cats, dogs, proms and beer parties.
Now, some federal agents privately talk, almost in amazement, about how much information is available on social networks and how careless criminals are. They say some information can be obtained without even going undercover.
In fact, they say some criminals — and noncriminals as well — fail to select the right security settings to block non-friends from seeing photos and other personal information on sites like Facebook. And besides, anyone can see a person’s friend list without “friending” the person.
“It’s not like we have to dig very deep,” said one federal agent who has not created fictitious accounts but knows of others who have. “Facebook is the best. They videotape themselves. They have pictures with guns, posing with gang members. There’s addresses of homes. We tend to go after what’s there.”
Another federal agent says he’s amazed how freely some criminals post information on social networks.
“I’m surprised by the recklessness of it,” the agent said. “I would think they would be smarter. That’s why we only catch the stupid ones. ”
Still, even before the recent documents surfaced publicly about fictitious accounts, some federal law enforcement agencies readily admitted to being aware of criminals using the social networks.
On Jan. 27, for example, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles issued a press release about the indictment of 20 suspected members of the Riverside Street Gang with ties to the Mexican Mafia. The release noted that the members use “MySpace.com to communicate about gang business, and they use rap music videos and recordings to deliver a message of violence and intimidation.”
DEA Agent Sarah Pullen of the Los Angeles office said of the probe, “Any time you have visual evidence that is available, it is extremely helpful in conducting an investigation. It would be the same as a piece of mail or a photo; anything that shows evidence of a crime.”
In Washington, federal law enforcement agencies have responded to the issue of agents creating fictitious undercover accounts with carefully worded responses.
“The Department of Justice and our agents follow applicable laws, regulations and internal guidelines for investigations, regardless of whether those investigations occur online or on the street,” Laura Sweeney, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement to AOL News.
“Just as we’ve done successfully in identifying and prosecuting child predators online, we will continue to use publicly available information individuals post online about their illegal activities, or false statements to law enforcement officials, in our investigations. To do otherwise would be negligence on our part,” Sweeney said.
Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman, noted, “Simply said, law enforcement needs to be able to constantly adapt to the changing world around them while maintaining its ability to use all lawful and available tools at its disposal to gather potential leads to solve crimes.”
Interestingly, the Internal Revenue Service provided a document in the San Francisco lawsuit that states employee guidelines for the Internet. “You cannot obtain information from websites by registering … fictitious identities,” the document said.
“I think it’s interesting the IRS has drawn the line, and the Justice Department has not,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Hofmann said.
There has been limited public outcry about the prospects of agents creating undercover accounts since the Justice Department document surfaced.
But Hofmann mentioned the La Crosse, Wis., police department, which reportedly created a fake Facebook page using an attractive, blond-haired woman to lure students and find out about underage drinking. The department did not return a call for comment.
The La Crosse Tribune reported in November that Adam Bauer, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse sophomore, had nearly 400 friends on Facebook and added the attractive woman. Shortly after, police had Facebook photos of him drinking, and he was fined $227.
After his court appearance in November, Bauer told the paper, “I just can’t believe it. I feel like I’m in a science fiction movie, like they are always watching. When does it end?”
By Allan Lengel
Is it petty jealousy or just honesty? Some lawyers think that small-time Denver attorney Art Folsom is in over his head representing Najibullah Zazi in the biggest terrorism case in recent times.
Stephanie Simon of the Wall Street reports that Folsom has made a career out representing clients for drug possession, drunk driving and divorce. Now he’s big time, up against the weight of the U.S. government. To read the full story click here.