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Archive for May, 2009

FBI Stings-Informants Don’t Always Make For Good Domestic Terrorism Cases

Stings Not Always Fruitful
Stings Not Always Fruitful

Sting operations and anonymous informants are invaluable tools in the FBI’s major domestic terrorist operations. But it turns out sometimes these tools aren’t enough to make a case — or at least a legit one.

By Deborah Hastings
Associated Press
NEW YORK — It usually starts with a snitch and a sting operation, followed by a great deal of publicity and controversy.

Case in point: Four Muslim men charged last week with plotting to blow up synagogues and military planes. The informant is a convicted felon and Pakistani immigrant who turned informant seven years ago to avoid deportation. This wasn’t his first foray into undercover work for federal authorities.

With considerable fanfare, a steady stream of terrorism busts has been announced by the FBI since Sept. 11, 2001. And in most cases, accusations soon followed that the stings were overblown operations that entrapped hapless ne’er-do-wells. Federal authorities say such arrests save lives.

But what happens to these cases after the media spotlight fades and the noise dies down? And are the snitches involved reliable?

“Most of these guys don’t get tried,” said security analyst Bruce Schneier. “These are not criminal masterminds, they’re idiots. There’s huge fanfares at the arrest, and then it dies off.”

To Read More

Two Ex-N.Y. Times Journalists Said They Had Watergate Scandal Tip First; Former FBI Dir. Patrick Gray Cited as Source

L. Patrick Gray/fbi photo

L. Patrick Gray/fbi photo

It’s interesting to see that decades later we’re still learning about FBI leaks in the Watergate case, a story that gave journalism new direction and ushered in an era of great investigative reporting.

By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
New York Times

The Watergate break-in eventually forced a presidential resignation and turned two Washington Post reporters into pop-culture heroes.

But almost 37 years after the break-in, two former New York Times journalists have stepped forward to say that The Times had the scandal nearly in its grasp before The Post did – and let it slip.

Robert M. Smith, a former Times reporter, says that two months after the burglary, over lunch at a Washington restaurant, the acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, L. Patrick Gray, disclosed explosive aspects of the case, including the culpability of the former attorney general, John Mitchell, and hinted at White House involvement.

Mr. Smith rushed back to The Times’s bureau in Washington to repeat the story to Robert H. Phelps, an editor there, who took notes and tape-recorded the conversation, according to both men. But then Mr. Smith had to hand off the story – he had quit The Times and was leaving town the next day to attend Yale Law School.

Mr. Smith kept the events to himself for more than three decades, but decided to go public after learning that Mr. Phelps planned to include it in his memoir.

For Full Story

HAPPY MEMORIAL WEEKEND FROM TICKLETHEWIRE.COM

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Philadelphia Inquirer Endorses Ex-U.S. Atty. Chris Christie For New Jersey Republican Gov. Primary

Christopher Christie

Christopher Christie

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Page
The contest to bear the Republican standard against the Democratic gubernatorial candidate has fallen into a familiar pattern for the New Jersey GOP: the hard-line conservative promising outright upheaval versus the establishment candidate espousing vague electability.

The latter is CHRIS CHRISTIE, and The Inquirer endorses him in the Republican primary. Christie, 46, is the most electable candidate – so much so that Democrats have tried to boost the prospects of right-wing rival Steve Lonegan. Christie earned his reputation with prolific corruption-busting as the state’s chief federal prosecutor. His nomination would likely guarantee a healthy competition in the general election and, for many voters, a tough choice.

Christie’s chief drawback is his foggy agenda, a combination of GOP boilerplate and deliberate ambiguity. That’s probably because he is trying to keep the party’s conservative base mollified without harming his ability to move toward the center in November – a perennial challenge for Republicans in the liberal state.

Lonegan, by contrast, deserves credit for making substantive policy proposals. Unfortunately, some of them would be disastrous if ever carried out.

To READ More

FBI Role To Expand in Fighting Global Terrorism While Focusing More on Prosecutions

fbi1This approach seems fairer. Of course, Dick Cheney may not approve.

By Josh Meyer
Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The FBI and Justice Department are gearing up to significantly expand their role in global counterterrorism operations as part of a sharp U.S. policy turnabout, in which a system based primarily on clandestine detentions and interrogations will be replaced by one emphasizing transparent investigations and prosecutions of terrorism suspects.

The effort, which has not been disclosed publicly, includes an initiative dubbed “Global Justice.” FBI agents would participate more centrally in overseas counterterrorism cases, questioning suspects and gathering evidence to ensure that criminal prosecutions are an option wherever possible, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials.

The initiative has been quietly in the works for several months, and many details have not been finalized. But some senior counterterrorism officials and Obama administration policymakers envision it as a centerpiece of the much broader national security framework laid out by the president on Thursday that emphasizes the rule of law, or the principle that even accused terrorists have the right to contest the charges against them in some kind of criminal justice setting.

For Full Story

Interim Philly U.S. Attorney Abruptly Replaced

U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid

U.S. Atty. Laurie Magid

Interim U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid did some things that bothered people enough that they didn’t want to wait for her replacement.  One thing involved a fundraiser. Another involved her attempt to merge the Organized Crime Strike Force into a larger unit. The result: Good bye Laurie Magid as U.S. Attorney.

By Emilie Lounsberry and Robert Moran
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writers
PHILADELPHIA — In an abrupt move, interim U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid was replaced yesterday with another interim chief prosecutor for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Magid, a Republican appointee of the second Bush administration, has been overseeing the office since the departure of U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan last summer.

Magid, her spokeswoman, and a Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington all declined to discuss the switch beyond what was stated in a news release issued late yesterday.

Magid will, however, remain in the office, in the appeals division.

Her replacement is Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy, who previously served as an interim U.S. attorney between April and September 2001, the early months of the Bush administration. He was most recently chief of the unit that prosecutes computer and intellectual-property crimes and child exploitation.

For Full Story

Weekend Series on History: Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy vs. Jimmy Hoffa

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

Ex- Mayor Marion Barry Remains the Teflon Dean of D.C. Politics; Avoids Jail Time for Tax Problems

Councilman Marion Barry

Councilman Marion Barry

This man clearly has nine lives. Once again, he dodges jail time. The legend lives on.

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON –– A federal judge extended D.C. Council member Marion Barry’s probation for two more years, ruling that the former mayor violated the terms of his probation by failing to file tax returns in a timely manner.

In an 18-page opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson rejected a request by prosecutors to have Barry placed on home detention.

Prosecutors originally asked Robinson to revoke Barry’s probation and send him to jail because he had failed to file his 2007 tax returns in a timely manner. He also had not filed tax returns on time in eight of the past nine years, prosecutors said.

But at a hearing last month, they backed off that request after learning that local jails did not have proper facilities or staffing to care for someone with his ailments. Barry, 72, is recovering from a kidney transplant.

For Full Story