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Archive for January, 2009

Appeals Court Backs Controversial Warrantless Wiretaps

Here’s a ruling bound to stir more controversy. Will things change in the Obama administration?

By Del Quentin Wilber and R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — A special federal appeals court yesterday released a rare declassified opinion that backed the government’s authority to intercept international phone conversations and e-mails from U.S. soil without a judicial warrant, even those involving Americans, if a significant purpose is to collect foreign intelligence.
The ruling, which was issued in August but not made public until now, responded to an unnamed telecommunications firm’s complaint that the Bush administration in 2007 improperly demanded information on its clients, violating constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The company complied with the demand while the case was pending.
In its opinion, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review ruled that national security interests outweighed the privacy rights of those targeted, affirming what amounts to a constitutional exception for matters involving government interests “of the highest order of magnitude.”
For Full Story

Oooops! Another Government Screw Up in Stevens Case: Prosecution Says it Misspoke and Asks Judge Not to Force Atty. Gen. To Sign Declaration Under Oath

The government now says it misspoke when it told the judge on Wednesday that an FBI agent in the Stevens case had been denied whistleblower status. The misstep on Wednesday set off the judge who ordered  Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey to sign a declaration of oath on the matter. Now the prosecution says it was all a misunderstanding. Ooops.

By Lisa Demer and Erika Bolstad
Anchorage Daily News

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors revealed that Anchorage FBI agent Chad Joy was the person alleging misconduct in the Ted Stevens corruption investigation and also said he had been “denied whistleblower status.”
Today, they told the judge they were wrong on the second point.
A document filed late in the day today describes another misstep for the prosecution in the case of former U.S. Sen. Stevens, convicted last year of seven felonies for failing to reveal gifts on federal financial disclosure forms.
At Wednesday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan was angered when prosecutors told him that Joy didn’t qualify for whistleblower status. Had he known that earlier, the judge said, he would have handled the complaint differently from the start, he said. In December, when the complaint came to light, he ordered that a redacted copy with almost no names be released.
“I want to know what your office knew and when,” Sullivan demanded at the hearing. He ordered that Attorney General Michael Mukasey sign a declaration under oath about who knew what when about the whistleblower status. But on Thursday, prosecutors admitted they got that part wrong and are asking that the judge back off his order for Mukasey to get involved.
For Full Story
Read Government Motion
UPDATE: Friday 6:40 P.M. Annoyed Judge Still Wants Answers From  Mukasey (Anchorage Daily News)

U.S. Atty. Fitzgerald Refutes Defense Claim That He Should Be Taken off Gov. Blagojevich Case

U.S. Atty. Fitzgerald

U.S. Atty. Fitzgerald

One thing U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald is known for: not walking away from a battle. Here’s the latest salvo in the Gov. Blagojevich case.

By MIKE ROBINSON
Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO — Federal prosecutors fired back Thursday at defense claims that U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s comments at a news conference were so strongly worded that he should be taken off the fraud case against Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Fitzgerald said in announcing charges against Blagojevich and former chief of staff John Harris on Dec. 9 the two men had been on “a political corruption crime spree” and their actions would make “Lincoln roll over in his grave.”
Defense attorneys have asked Chief Judge James F. Holderman of the U.S. District Court to take Fitzgerald off the case, saying the comments were so far over the line that they were guaranteed to generate prejudicial publicity before the trial.
Fitzgerald’s office said in court papers filed Thursday his comments were not improper and “served as a means of energizing and mobilizing the community to take action to thwart or deter public corruption.”

Read Government Motion

Feds Say White Supremacist Hate Talk Out There About Obama Inauguration

With an event of this magnitude, you can never underestimate potential problems. And one of those potential problems is the white supremacists, who have been spewing hate ever since Obama launched his presidential campaign. Inauguration or not, that isn’t expected to change anytime soon.

By Richard Sisk and James Gordon Meek
New York Daily News
Washington — Federal agents are on “a higher state of alert” because of hate talk by white supremacists about Barack Obama’s inauguration, officials told the Daily News on Tuesday.
“That chatter is out there, no doubt about it,” one senior FBI agent in Washington said this afternoon, adding that no credible plots against the 56th Presidential Inauguration have been detected.
The Bureau has ordered agents in all 56 field offices to “shake the trees” in advance of the Jan. 20 swearing-in of the 44th President, who will become the first African-American to occupy the Oval Office.
To Read More

Pittsburgh FBI Agent Tells of His Stint in Afghanistan to Crack Down on Contractor Fraud

Jeff Killeen is just one of the many FBI agents who have played an increasing roll in the world for the U.S. in the post-9/11 era. He went there to help crack down on fraud committed by U.S. and Afghani contractors.

By Torsten Ove
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PITTSBURGH — Home from what he calls the “wilds” of Afghanistan, Pittsburgh FBI Chief Division Counsel Jeff Killeen climbed into a colleague’s car at the airport for the ride to the South Side office.
As Agent Bill Crowley drove, he noticed something different about his friend.
In addition to being 10 pounds lighter, Agent Killeen was a bit twitchy, glancing over his right shoulder and looking out the window as if he expected to see something bad.
Turns out he was.
Out of reflex, he was checking for suicide car bombers — the main threat to any American on the chaotic roads of Kabul.
“Crowley said that I was ‘on edge,’ ” said Agent Killeen, 56. “You’re constantly looking for threats over there.”
For Full Story

Sen. Specter Presses Eric Holder on Marc Rich Pardon

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_f7DNhHSRA

Ex-Boston FBI Agent John Connolly Gets 40 Years in 1982 Mob Murder

The mob and the Boston FBI had a toxic relationship. This was just another story in that sad chapter. But this tale may not be over. Connolly could still go free on a successful appeal, which he seems to have a shot at.

BY DAVID OVALLE
Miami Herald
John Connolly/wbztv

John Connolly/wbztv

MIAMI — Disgraced FBI agent John Connolly must serve 40 years in prison for the 1982 murder of a one-time gambling executive, a Miami-Dade judge ruled Thursday.
But Circuit Judge Stanford Blake left the door open to the conviction being tossed out by an appeal court later, agreeing with defense attorneys that the statute of limitations had run out for the murder.
However, Blake refused to toss Connolly’s conviction because the ex-agent’s lawyers waited too long to file their motion.
Defense attorney Manny Casabielle proclaimed Connolly a “free man.”
”There is no doubt that John has won,” Casabielle said.
For Full Story

Justice Says Missing White House Emails Found

Funny how those emails seemed to turn up just at the right time.

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — A Justice Department lawyer told a federal judge yesterday that the Bush administration will meet its legal requirement to transfer e-mails to the National Archives after spending more than $10 million to locate 14 million e-mails reported missing four years ago from White House computer files.
Civil division trial lawyer Helen H. Hong made the disclosure at a court hearing provoked by a 2007 lawsuit filed by outside groups to ensure that politically significant records created by the White House are not destroyed or removed before President Bush leaves office at noon on Tuesday. She said the department plans to argue in a court filing this week that the administration’s successful recent search renders the lawsuit moot.
Hong’s statement came hours after U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. ordered employees of the president’s executive office — with just days to go before their departure — to undertake a comprehensive search of computer workstations, preserve portable hard drives and examine any e-mail archives created or retained from 2003 to 2005, the period in which e-mails appeared to be missing.
For Full Story