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Archive for January, 2009

The Big Question is Whether Congress Should Go After Misdeeds of Bush Administration

The big question will be whether Congress wants to explore some misdeeds of the past or move forward. With all the confusion in Washington and the economy in the dumps, it may be a little harder to get the American people behind them to go after the those misdeeds.

Rep. John Conyers

Rep. John Conyers

By Zachary Roth
TalkingPointsMemo

Over the weekend, President-Elect Obama said we should “look forward as opposed to looking backwards” on the question of prosecuting Bush administration officials for torture, illegal wiretapping, and other possible crimes committed in the name of national security.
But yesterday, the House Judiciary committee got behind a very different approach, releasing a nearly 500-page report that recommends establishing a blue-ribbon commission — along the lines of the 9/11 commission, but with subpoena power — to investigate whether crimes were committed. (Last week, as we reported over at Election Central, Judiciary chair John Conyers and nine other lawmakers introduced a bill to set up such a commission.)
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The full report

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Sen. Believes Ex-FBI Agent in Secret Iran Prison

The sad tale of ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson goes on. Here’s the latest twist.

Robert Levinson/photo helpboblevinson.com

Robert Levinson/photo helpboblevinson.com

By Fox News
A U.S. senator revealed Tuesday that he believes a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran nearly two years ago is being held in a secret prison there – much to the surprise of the ex-agent’s wife.
Sen. Bill Nelson’s comments on the disappearance of Robert Levinson came during Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s secretary of state confirmation hearing in Washington.
“I haven’t received any information about my husband,” Levinson’s wife, Christine, told The Associated Press.
For Full Story

FBI Launches System to Share Terrorism Tips with Local Police

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller III

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller III

Historically, local law enforcement has complained about the FBI not sharing enough information. There may still be complaints after this, but it may help deflect some complaints.

By DEVLIN BARRETT
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — The FBI has launched a system to share tips about possible terror threats with local police agencies just in time for the presidential inauguration.
The program aims to get law enforcement at all levels sharing data quickly about suspicious activity and people, particularly in and around the nation’s capital in the week leading up to the historic ceremony.
Officials say they are getting as many as 1,000 tips a day from the public.
Called e-Guardian, the program had been delayed and underwent a smaller pilot project before launching New Year’s Eve as a system available to law enforcement agencies around the country.
Federal authorities hope the new system overcomes a drawback of another version, which lets police report their suspicions to the FBI but doesn’t allow officers to search the system for similar patterns in other jurisdictions.

For Full Story

For A Serious Job, There’s An Awful Lot of Pranksters

Being a federal agent or attorney is a serious job, not only sometimes dangerous, but it involves personal sacrifices and long and stressful hours. So why does it continue to be such a popular career choice and why are camaraderie and high morale present in so many federal law enforcement and Justice Department offices? After a multi-year investigation conducted primarily in bars, pool halls and lunch spots, I think I have a theory.

One measure of this esprit de corps is the pranksterism among colleagues in many offices. Although not exactly essential to a well functioning office, I have, through the many anecdotes collected in the study, concluded that the phenomenon is highly symptomatic of a positive work environment.

A few supportive illustrations from my former office in the Motor City, which, unlike the Big Three, manages both excellence and superb colleagueship. This will protect the Grade 13s and below in other agencies who have provided source material for the study. Besides they’re not going to hire me back anyway.

After winning a particularly difficult trial, drug AUSA Jim King, who typically celebrated guilty jury verdicts by playing Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” at 150 decibels, returned to his office the following morning to find a 500 pound gravestone engraved with the name “King” on the top of his desk. I am disclosing his identity since his status as an author, law school professor and an instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia is thought to be secure.

Another male Assistant, who was in the process of planning a family with his wife, received a fraudulent telephone call, purportedly from a nurse at the hospital fertility clinic they had visited, informing him that he was required to appear the next morning with a second sperm sample. The clinic’s nurses informed him the next morning when he produced the container that they had made no such call. Anyone who has experienced this medical encounter can well imagine the mortified look on his face. However, I am happy to report that this incident did not prevent him and his wife from later producing a lovely family.

When the photograph of a female member of the Eastern District Clerk’s Office appeared as a centerfold in an adult magazine, one of the USAO Unit Chiefs received an autographed copy, forged encouragingly by one of his supervisees, inviting him to come see her for a chat. This was followed by his, at first, enthusiastic and, then, profoundly embarrassed appearance at her desk. Actually this supervisor was the victim of numerous such pranks, involving telephone calls that his jury, which was deliberating, had a question about his choice of suits for the day, phantom promotions and fraudulently inserted language in a Court of Appeals opinion criticizing his trial performance. He was one of my all time favorite supervisors, but, hey, he’s a criminal defense attorney now so all bets are off.

Nor were the women in the office immune from these pranks. Awhile back I was trolling through ebay looking for interesting hockey jerseys to bid on. My daughter, a right winger for her college team, collects jerseys. Children can be expensive hobbies for besotted parents. I came across a Canadian women’s team jersey which happened to have the same name as one of my female colleagues in the drug unit. She is an excellent attorney but has a wicked sense of humor. So it was like kismet, the prank planned itself. I purchased the jersey, a co-conspirator provided a Victoria Secret box, and we wrapped it as a present, which I presented to her during the Unit Christmas party. As she unwrapped it and saw the lingerie box, I could see her thinking, “I had no idea this guy was a nut, where are my Title VII materials!” When she saw what it was, after thanking me, she uttered an unprintable expletive and threw a government pen at me. She has since gotten even with me.

Lest you think we in Detroit spent all our time scheming pranks, I should say that they were relatively infrequent, involved only each other as victims, and did not impede the serious work that was accomplished there. But they did occasionally provide comic relief for us all during some tough days.

So the next time some micromanager or a headquarters report requirement dims the luster of your day, remind yourself that being in federal law enforcement is a great job, and maybe plan a prank on the guy in the cubicle. Not only is the work important and a service to your country, but it is filled with men and women who not only care about what happens to each other but also honestly enjoy their work.

Ask someone on Wall Street if they can say the same.

Ross Parker

Happy Ending For Law Enforcement in Spa Crackdown

About ten years ago the Ann Arbor (MI) Police Department’s Deputy Chief came to me with a proposal. AAPD wanted to know if the FBI would be willing to help investigate Asian spas in Ann Arbor, and prosecute them federally. At the time I was the senior agent in the local FBI office and knew next to nothing about Asian spas. I was not even aware there were five such spas operating in the city.

I consulted with the local U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) and FBIHQ. I got the go-ahead and learned there were other similar cases being pursued elsewhere in the country. Further there were national implications involved, e.g., organized crime, indentured servitude, immigrant smuggling, and sexual exploitation, which the then US Attorney General had made a priority. I went back to AAPD and told them we could pursue the spas federally, but only if AAPD was willing to commit to a long-term investigation. To AAPDʼs credit, it made that commitment. (I wanted to codename the case Operation Hoedown, but due to some HQ’s sensibility issues, we had to settle for Seoul Provider.)

Ten years later, this story is worth recounting. These type of spas still operate around the country and exploit vulnerable women and degrade communities. We can’t ignore them. But what’s particularly nice about this story is how the FBI and the local police worked so well together, and in the end, the police department reaped the financial rewards from forfeitures.

At the onset of the case, the AAPD understood that the spas could be shut down easily like the speakeasies of the prohibition era, but to have any lasting impact the owners had to to be identified and prosecuted.  It was relatively easy to show there was prostitution occurring in these spas, the trick (no pun intended) was to prove the owners had knowledge that prostitution was occurring, and they were
profiting from it.

All of the spas in Ann Arbor were run by Korean Americans and surveillance and telephone pen-registers indicated some interaction between spas in Ann Arbor and all over the country. All of the spas that we became aware of in Michigan and Ohio were run by Korean Americans. All of these spas had a very similar operating procedure. The working girls were almost exclusively Asian and lived on the premises and seldom left. They moved from one spa to another after six weeks to two months. The spas were usually managed by older Asian women, who were in effect madams. Often the spas would have the working girls sign agreements as independent contractors, thus helping give the owners plausible deniability as to knowledge of sexual activity. The working girls were in almost all cases uncooperative with law enforcement and could not be relied upon as potential witnesses. Despite them being exploited, most had very limited skills, English language ability and were in an indentured servitude status. Life was not good by American standards, but pretty good compared to what they had come from.

The spas operated seven days a week with very long hours, e.g., 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. (not the kind of hours observed in legitimate massage parlors). The spas would set fees such as $45 for a half hour and $60 for an hour. Generally these initial fees went to the house. The money for sex was added to the initial fee and was negotiated based on the sexual activity. The money for sex was split between the house and the girls. All of the spas we investigated accepted credit cards. This turned out to be a key element in proving the owners knowledge. The owners would establish the merchant account to enable them to accept credit cards. Thus, all proceeds from the credit cards went directly to the owner. So if a customer were to pay his initial fee with a credit card and then within 10 or 15 minutes have a second charge in excess of $100 made on the card it was obvious what was occurring and difficult for the owner to argue they had no knowledge of the sexual activity. (All the credit transaction information was obtained via subpoena.) This coupled with physical surveillance, which included “trash pulls” (the trash pulls revealed among other things, used condoms and daily business records)   and evidence obtained when we ultimately executed search warrants resulted in all of the spa owners being convicted of federal felony charges.

Most of these charges were based on Interstate Transportation In Aid Of Racketeering (ITAR)-prostitution statute (18USC1952), but there were also immigration statutes that were applicable. Also if the owners were not US citizens, they were subject to deportation upon conviction.

The reward for AAPD’s commitment to a long-term investigation was that they received most of about $1 million in criminal forfeiture proceeds seized from the convicted owners.
Yes, for law enforcement, it was a happy ending.

 

Greg Stejskal

Inspector Gen. Says Ideological Considerations Tainted Hiring Process At Justice Civil Rights Division

Bradley Schlozman

Bradley Schlozman

Here’s just another disturbing footnote in the Justice Department in the Bush years.
By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Ideological considerations permeated the hiring process at the Justice Department’s civil rights division, where a politically appointed official sought to hire “real Americans” and Republicans for career posts and prominent case assignments, according to a long awaited report released this morning by the department’s inspector general.
The extensive study of hiring practices between 2001 and 2007 concluded that a former department official improperly weeded out candidates based on their perceived ties to liberal organizations. Two other senior managers failed to oversee the process, authorities said.
The key official, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman, favored employees who shared his political views and derided others as “libs” and “pinkos,” the report said.
For Full Story
To Read Report

Read Additional Information (Washington Post)

What Constitutes a Suspicious Incident in Aviation Today?

Chad Wolf

Chad Wolf

 

By Chad Wolf
Security DeBrief
What constitutes a suspicious incident in aviation today? This is the fundamental question that led to nine Muslim passengers being kicked off an Air Tran Airways flight on New Year’s Day.
By now, we’ve all heard the series of events that transpired – several Muslim passengers were discussing airline safety and security while boarding the flight; other passengers reported this “suspicious” behavior to the flight attendant who in turn reported it to the pilot in command; the pilot, with the assistance of Federal Air Marshals, asked that all the passengers be re-screened and then refused to transport the nine passengers in question.
Put aside the pilot’s decision to refuse transport (a decision he/she is permitted to make without much outside review) as well as Air Tran’s apparent lack of customer service skills, and what remains is a regulatory requirement from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to all domestic and in-bound international airlines to report any suspicious incidents immediately to TSA. TSA’s purpose for this requirement is simple: to identify any individual incidents / issues that are occurring and determine if there’s any system-wide pattern or similar events taking place across the aviation system (in other words – to connect the dots). 

Read more »

Louisiana Man Charged With Threatening Pres. Bush

With just a few days in his presidency some still want to harm President Bush.
By Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Federal authorities have charged a Louisiana man with threatening to kill President George W. Bush.
A social worker told Secret Service agents that 44-year-old Gregory Broussard was being treated at a Hammond hospital when he threatened to blow up the White House and kill the president.
Broussard is scheduled in federal court Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney says she doesn’t know if Broussard has an attorney.
For Full Story