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Archive for April, 2009

Bush Admin. Prepared for Harsh Interrogation Tactics Before Being Granted Legal Ok

There’s no turning back at this point. While President Obama wanted to brush this aside and move on, the demand for a full-scale investigation of torture seems to be winning out. Expect lots of scandal, but it seems it will be tough to ever file criminal charges against any Bush officials, let alone get a conviction.white-house

By Joby Warrick and Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writers
WASHINGTON — Intelligence and military officials under the Bush administration began preparing to conduct harsh interrogations long before they were granted legal approval to use such methods — and weeks before the CIA captured its first high-ranking terrorism suspect, Senate investigators have concluded.

Previously secret memos and interviews show CIA and Pentagon officials exploring ways to break Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees in early 2002, up to eight months before Justice Department lawyers approved the use of waterboarding and nine other harsh methods, investigators found.

The findings are contained in a Senate Armed Services Committee report scheduled for release today that also documents multiple warnings — from legal and trained interrogation experts — that the techniques could backfire and might violate U.S. and international law.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Justice Dept. Announces New Anti-Trust Leadership (Main Justice)

Fed Air Marshals to Get 30 Day Suspension for Drunk Driving Arrests

Probably not a bad idea to craistock_000001465593xsmallckdown on federal air marshals who violate the law. Makes sense.

By Michael Grabell
ProPublica

Federal air marshals arrested on drunken-driving charges will face a 30-day suspension without pay under a new policy (PDF) from the Transportation Security Administration.

The penalty replaces a policy in which air marshals convicted of drunken driving could be punished with a letter of reprimand, one of the lowest penalties.

The new policy comes after a report by ProPublica found that more than 40 air marshals had been charged with crimes since the agency expanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The report appeared in Nov. 13 editions of USA Today.

Robert Bray, director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, said the tougher penalty is a way to implement “a culture of accountability” in the agency.

“We’ve had pretty strong feedback” from the rank and file, he said. “They feel as professionally and personally embarrassed by these actions as I do, and they want these people dealt with.”

Under the policy, a 30-day suspension is mandatory for any “alcohol-related offense,” a broad category that includes a police report of driving under the influence, refusing a sobriety test, an arrest or a conviction.

The minimum 30-day suspension puts the air marshals in line with other federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. It took effect Friday.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 armed air marshals fly undercover on U.S. flights to protect against possible terrorist attacks. The official number is classified.

At least nine air marshals have been convicted of drunken driving, according to a Transportation Security Administration memo obtained by ProPublica.

A group that lobbies on behalf of federal officers agreed with the change in policy.

“We’re out there to protect the families of the American public — not endanger them with drunk driving,” said Frank Terreri, an air marshal and representative with the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “We were honestly surprised that it was as lenient as it was.”

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who grilled TSA officials about drunken-driving incidents at a congressional hearing, said that he is encouraged by the stricter penalties but that air marshals convicted of driving drunk should be fired. “Their job is too important to get a conviction for drunken driving,” Poe said.

FBI Adds First Domestic Terror Suspect to its Most Wanted Terrorist List

San Diego/fbi photo

San Diego/fbi photo

Osama bin Laden, move over. Meet animal rights bomber Daniel Andreas San Diego.

 

By Henry K. Lee and Demian Bulwa
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO — The FBI added an alleged animal rights bomber from Sonoma County to its list of “Most Wanted” terror suspects Tuesday, underscoring the agency’s increasing focus on such activists by lining him up next to Osama Bin Laden and 22 other Islamic extremists.

Daniel Andreas San Diego, 31, a former resident of tiny Schellville who is believed by authorities to be hiding out in Costa Rica, is the first domestic terror suspect to be added to a list that officials created a month after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

San Diego is accused of detonating pipe bombs in 2003 at a pair of firms, Chiron Corp. in Emeryville and Shaklee Corp. in Pleasanton. No one was hurt in the early morning attacks, though the FBI contended Tuesday that San Diego “intended to cause serious injury or death.”

Investigators believe the firms were targeted because they had done business with Huntingdon Life Sciences, a New Jersey laboratory that conducts experiments on animals for clients.

 For Full Story

Reporter Scores Victory in Fight to Protect Confidential Sources

The press scored a big victory in Detroit on Tuesday when a federal judge ruled that a Detroit Free Press reporter did not have to disclose sources during a deposition because he feared incriminating himself. It’s an interesting defense and an interesting ruling.

David Ashenfelter

David Ashenfelter

By Sandra Svoboda
Detroit Metro Times
DETROIT — Veteran journalist David Ashenfelter had been ordered three times to submit to a deposition in a former federal prosecutor’s lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department.

The former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, is seeking the identity of an unnamed source or sources in a January 2004article Ashenfelter wrote about an internal investigation into Convertino’s handling of a high-profile terrorism-related trial following 9/11.

Convertino won convictions against three of the four men tried, but those verdicts were overturned after it was discovered Convertino withheld evidence from the defense.

Convertino alleges that the leak was a violation of his rights under the federal Privacy Act. He can’t win his case without knowing who talked to Ashenfelter, his attorney has said.

Ashenfelter faced the possibility of jail or fines for contempt of court if he didn’t cooperate with the deposition.

Although U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland had previously ruled that Ashenfelter had to answer questions from Convertino’s attorney, Tuesday in a closed-door deposition Cleland agreed with Ashenfelter and the paper’s attorneys that the Pulitzer Prize winner had sufficient grounds for a Fifth Amendment defense – in other words he could refuse to answer questions on the grounds of possible self-incrimination.

For Full Story

Indicted Ex-Gov. Blago Gets a Dose of Realty: He Can’t Go on Reality Show

blago-on-lettermanEx-Gov. Blagojevich loves the spotlight, but he’ll have to stay closer to home to find it.  That’s the reality of it all.

By The Chicago Tribune Staff
CHICAGO — A federal judge today denied permission to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to travel to Costa Rica to participate in a reality TV show.

U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel called modifying the terms of Blagojevich’s bail on political corruption charges “a bad idea.”

Prosecutors voiced fears that the indicted ex-governor might flee if allowed to go to Costa Rica, noting that he faces 25 to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky said television show producer NBC was willing to pay for two security guards to watch Blagjojevich around the clock. But Zagel noted that such personal monitors would have no authority to arrest him. He also said Blagojevich needs to stick around to read the government’s evidence, because only then will he be able to understand the jeopardy he is in.

For Full Story

FBI Police Officers in W. Va. Charged with Spying On Teen Girls Undressing at Mall Changing Room

Unless these teen girls were linked to al Qaeda, this is quite the embarrassing incident. So far no evidence of a link to al Qaeda. These men were FBI police officers, not agents, the FBI said.morgantown-w-va

By The Associated Press
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.- Two FBI workers are accused of using surveillance equipment to spy on teen girls as they undressed and tried on prom gowns at a charity event at a West Virginia mall.

The FBI employees have been charged with conspiracy and committing criminal invasion of privacy. They were working in an FBI satellite control room at the mall when they positioned a camera on temporary changing rooms and zoomed in for at least 90 minutes on girls dressing for the Cinderella Project fashion show, Marion County Prosecutor Pat Wilson said today.

Gary Sutton Jr., 40, of New Milton and Charles Hommema of Buckhannon have been charged with the misdemeanors and face fines and up to a year in jail on each charge if convicted. Sutton has been released on bond, Wilson said, and Hommema is to be arraigned later this week. Wilson did not know Hommema’s age.

The workers were described in a complaint as “police officers”.

For Full Stories

Homeland Sec. Janet Napolitano to Get Tough at Canada Border

Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI Chief Testify in Mob Witness Protection Leak

Patrick Fitzgerald

Patrick Fitzgerald discussing a previous case

Things aren’t looking up for you when a high-profile U.S. Attorney and the special agent in charge of the local FBI testify against you in a federal trial. 

By Robert Mitchum
Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO — When Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose reported to Chicago FBI headquarters on Sept. 6, 2006, he thought he was receiving information on a terrorist fugitive authorities wanted him to pursue.

But when he opened the door of a conference room on the building’s 10th floor, he found the two most powerful men in Chicago federal law enforcement: U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, special agent-in-charge of the Chicago FBI office. There was a leak in the witness protection program, they told Ambrose, and investigators had traced the breach to him.

On Monday, Fitzgerald and Grant took turns on the witness stand at Ambrose’s trial, testifying about what happened on that morning 2½ years ago. After being confronted with evidence, Ambrose admitted to telling a family friend about the valuable witness he had protected twice, both officials testified.

“He said, ‘I bleeped up, I shot my mouth off … but it’s not what you think,'” Fitzgerald quoted Ambrose as saying that day.

 Fitzgerald’s nearly four hours of testimony was the centerpiece Monday as Ambrose’s trial entered its second week. Ambrose stands accused of an unprecedented leak of information from the highly confidential witness-protection program while he served on the security detail of hit man-turned-witness Nicholas Calabrese in 2002 and 2003.

Attorneys for Ambrose tried to block Fitzgerald’s and Grant’s testimony in pretrial hearings, arguing that he was not read his Miranda rights before the 2½-hour interview. But U.S. District Judge John Grady ruled that Ambrose’s admissions that day were valid evidence, clearing the way for Monday’s high-powered testimony.

For Full Story