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December 2008


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for December, 2008

Egyptian Student Gets 15 Years For Making Terrorist-Related YouTube Video

YouTube is normally considered a great venue for entertainment. In this case, it cost a university student his freedom.

Associated Press Writer
TAMPA, Fla. — An Egyptian student attending a Florida university was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday for making a YouTube video showing would-be terrorists how to turn a remote-control toy into a bomb detonator.
U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday said the public needed to be protected from 27-year-old Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed, who made the video “to empower others through his teaching to deliver death, destruction and, at the very least, panic.”
Merryday handed the maximum sentence to the former University of South Florida graduate student, brushing aside his attorneys’ pleas for leniency and the minimum eight-year sentence.
“This is an intelligent man who made a very bad mistake,” one his attorneys, Linda Moreno, said afterward. “This is a sad day.”
For Full Story

Read Sentencing Memorandum

Judge Sanctions Secret Service in Racial Discrimination Suit

There’s bad news in lawsuits. And then there’s really bad news. The Secret Service just got the really bad news.

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — A federal magistrate judge has ruled that the U.S. Secret Service “made a mockery” of long-standing rules by failing to preserve, concealing and even destroying evidence sought by 10 African American current and former employees in a racial discrimination case.
In an opinion filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, Judge Deborah A. Robinson effectively barred the agency from presenting a defense in the class-action lawsuit filed in 2000.
Robinson called the penalty an appropriate sanction for years of delay because the Secret Service’s conduct “prejudiced Plaintiffs’ ability to conduct meaningful discovery and prepare to address the merits of their claims.”
For Full Story


Iranian Woman Convicted in Fla. in Night Goggle Case (AP)

Legendary FBI Agent Mark Felt — aka “Deep Throat” — Dies at 95

Mark Felt/ photo-face the nation

Mark Felt/ photo-face the nation

A legendary newspaper source, his identity became the subject of speculation for decades.

By Patricia Sullivan and Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — W. Mark Felt Sr., the associate director of the FBI during the Watergate scandal who, better known as “Deep Throat,” became the most famous anonymous source in American history, died yesterday. He was 95.
Felt died at 12:45 p.m. at a hospice near his home in Santa Rosa, Calif. where he had been living since August.
Felt “was fine this morning” and was “joking with his caregiver,” according to his daughter, Joan Felt. She said in a phone interview that her father ate a big breakfast before remarking that he was tired and went to sleep.
“He slipped away,” she said.
As the second-highest official in the FBI under longtime director J. Edgar Hoover and interim director L. Patrick Gray, Felt detested the Nixon administration’s attempt to subvert the bureau’s investigation into the complex of crimes and coverups known as the Watergate scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.
For Full Story

Read Longer Post Version

Read New York Times Story


Some FBI Agents in Iraq Got Overtime to Attend Parties and Watch Movies

This comes under the category of “not good publicity for the bureau.”

Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — Taxpayers were billed an average of $45,000 in overtime and extra pay for each FBI agent temporarily posted to Iraq over the course of four years, according to a new Justice Department report. In some cases, agents were paid to watch movies, exercise and attend parties.
In all, the audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found the FBI racked up $7.8 million in improper wages between 2003 and 2007.
Thursday’s report blamed a faulty FBI policy that allowed agents to claim the extra time and money. An FBI spokesman said that policy – which initially sought to enlist volunteers to go to dangerous war zones – is no longer in place.
“Several FBI employees noted that they periodically spent time during the work day washing clothes,” the report noted.

For Full Story

Read Report

Read FBI Response

FBI Says Tribune Story Didn’t Affect Timing of Gov’s Arrest

By The Wall Street Journal
Washington Wire

The timing of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s arrest wasn’t affected by a Chicago Tribune story that reported Blagojevich was being secretly recorded as part of a political corruption investigation, a Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman said. The Dec. 9 arrest, the spokesman said, had been planned before the Tribune article appeared Dec. 5.
A Washington Wire post Dec. 14 incorrectly said the Tribune article dictated the timing of the arrest. The governor faces corruption charges that include seeking a political or financial deal in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
The FBI spokesman did not dispute that some members of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s team believed the Tribune article prompted Blagojevich to cancel a meeting allegedly called to discuss trading the Senate seat for campaign contributions.

Brace For The Invasion of the Political Appointees at DOJ

With the arrival of a new administration in Washington will come a hoard of new faces at the top of nearly every department and agency. Nowhere is this event viewed with more consternation than among the working stiffs in the 93 U. S. Attorneys’ Offices. And I can only assume that something similar occurs in the other federal law enforcement offices. The question is what fresh hell does 2009 bring to those in the field?

It takes those of us in the trenches all of a four-year term to adapt to new policies and paperwork, decipher unfamiliar governmentspeak, and submit to new reporting requirements for approval and consultation with Washington. All of this adjustment while doing our jobs of working with agents on cases which are supposed to be the real work of the Department. Now the process of re-orientation is about to begin again.

There is always the hope that at least some of the policy and procedural changes will actually make jobs on the front line better, more effective as prosecutors and investigators. And this time around there may be reason for the audacity of hope. For one thing, following the act of the present politicized and discredited DOJ leadership has some advantages in terms of lowered expectations. Fundamentally though, the likelihood of improvement may be determined by whether communication between DOJ Main and the USAO’s is a monologue or a dialogue.

The communication gap between short term politicians and career professionals is illustrated by Attorney General visits over the years to Detroit. These periodic events are intended to be a morale-booster for the troops and, done well, can be effective. For example, visits by Attorneys General Edwin Meese in 1987 and Janet Reno in 1994 each consisted of intelligent questions, encouraging news about future developments and sincere attaboys. General Reno even led the Office in singing Happy Birthday to AUSA Joe Allen. We all left feeling good about the job.

But the entirely one-way message in 2003 from John Ashcroft left at least some of us wondering if we should have chosen a different avocation. His speech presumed to instruct us, under his watch, on a prosecutor’s need for patriotism, diligence and adherence to policy. I wished I had stayed in my office and shuffled paper.

The visit two years later of Alberto Gonzalez lacked Ashcroft’s didacticism but was equally deflating. It lasted about four minutes and most of us couldn’t understand it anyway since it was delivered sotto voce into the lectern.

However, afterwards in one of those face-time sessions with a smaller group, one of the drug prosecutors found themselves sitting next to him. After an awkward silence, General Gonzalez managed a reasonably intelligent question, “So, how’s the meth problem going in Michigan?” The prosecutor proceeded to give him a succinct, informed summary of the enforcement situation along with some recent cases in the district. Mr. Gonzalez gave the AUSA a thousand-yard-stare until he came up with another conversation-starter, “So, how’s the meth problem going in Michigan?”

There certainly are exceptions to these uninspiring guest appearances. Former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey’s visit to Detroit reminded all of us the reason we became public servants. Attorney General nominee-to-be Eric Holder, if I recall correctly, came to Detroit early in his career and served to close the disconnect between Washington and the field.

In 1978 political scientist James Eisenstein published the results of ten-year study about the struggle and balance of authority and responsibility between the centralized forces of DOJ Headquarters and the decentralized operation of the individual U. S. Attorneys’ Offices in the field. His conclusions were affected by his findings that the former was populated by more specialized and experienced attorneys who served longer terms and the latter by less experienced but enthusiastic generalists many of whom were chosen, in part, for political reasons and who served short terms of service. Today, this contrast has changed remarkably. USAO’s are populated by career prosecutors, chosen on merit and involved in proactive, complex cases. However, some appointees in Washington still adhere to the old overlord-serf model and miss out on the opportunity to learn from those in the theater of operations. The relationship between headquarters and the field works best when it is a two-way dynamic with a mutually supportive balance of authority, responsibilities and resources.

Patrick Fitzgerald is an example of someone who has real credibility among those who labor in the vineyards. He earned his reputation through a series of hard fought prosecutions in New York of mob figures, terrorists and politicians. His personality as a tough but fair, hard working law enforcement officer who is offended by the serious wrongdoing of the rich and powerful. This resonates with the rest of us. No matter how high the profile of his target, he never confuses his own ego with the needs and integrity of his case. His prosecution this week of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is just the latest case in a series of Fitzgerald walking the walk of a line prosecutor’s prosecutor. Even his apparent pastime as an office prankster bolsters his credibility among those in the field.

Which is all to say that, in my opinion, either Fitzgerald or Comey or someone like them would be excellent choices for a DOJ leadership positions, especially from the perspective of career staffers in the U. S. Attorneys’ Offices.

If Holder chooses some career prosecutors for leadership positions and if they initiate a two-way communication with the field, the prospects for improvement in the Department, both in public appearance and in day to day reality, are good. Likewise, if the new federal law enforcement agency heads and their appointees remember their days on the street and the demands of putting cases together, the investigative side of the federal criminal justice house will also be sound.

So brace for the invasion of the political appointees and maintain your cautious optimism as long as possible.

An Interview With the Justice Official Who Leaked Info to the Press About the NSA Eavesdropping Program


Cigar-Chomping-Mob Fighting Detroit Fed Prosecutor Keith Corbett Calling it Quits

He may not be one of kind, but he’s the last of a kind. Cigar chomping, Notre Dame fan, Corbett was a fixture in Detroit in the fight against the mob.

By David Ashenfelter
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — The federal prosecutor who helped break the Detroit Mafia is calling it quits.
Keith Corbett, 59, the cigar-chomping assistant U.S. Attorney who ran the office’s Organized Crime Strike Force, said he plans to retire on Jan. 3 because of shifting priorities in the Justice Department and because, well, he’s worn out.
“I don’t want to be one of those old guys sitting around talking about the good old days and telling people how we used to do it,” Corbett told the Free Press. He said he hasn’t decided what he’ll do next.
Coworkers — as well as criminal lawyers who’ve matched wits with Corbett — said they’ll be sorry to see him go.
“He’s as good on his feet as any lawyer who ever walked into a courtroom,” said Detroit criminal lawyer Robert Morgan, a former federal prosecutor.
For Full Story