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Archive for August, 2010

Florida Man Gets Busted Planting Car Bomb in FBI Sting

tampaBy Glynnesha Taylor
ticklethewire.com

Surely John Nicholas Coors thought it was a good idea to plant a bomb in a car for an $8,000 fee. Only problem was that it really wasn’t a good idea. The person offering the cash was actually an undercover FBI agent.

On Monday, Coors, of Brandenton, Fla., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tampa to one count of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing.

During an undercover investigation, the FBI learned that Coors was claiming that he could build explosive devices with nitroglycerin, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

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FBI Director Mueller Shows Up for Jury Duty

Robert Mueller/fbi photo

Robert Mueller/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Even the FBI director doesn’t get out of reporting for jury duty.

Director Robert S. Mueller III showed up Monday for jury duty at D.C. Superior Court, the city’s criminal court, the Washington Post’s Reliable Source column reported.

Mueller, who showed up with an “ear-pieced security guy in tow”, according to the column, made it to the jury box for voir dire on a gun possession case.

But that’s as far as he got. He was dismissed. No surprise there.

FBI Tells Wikipedia Not to Use Bureau Seal

fbi logo largeBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The FBI, which can be very sensitive about its image, is taking on the ever-popular Wikipedia. The issue? The FBI seal.

The New York Times reports that the bureau sent off a letter to Wikimedia Foundation, the parent company of Wikipedia, demanding that it remove the FBI seal from an article on its pages.

”Failure to comply may result in further legal action. We appreciate your timely attention to this matter,” the FBI wrote, according to the New York Times.

Wikipedia claims the law the FBI cites is really aimed at preventing people from creating fake badges or profiting from the seal, the Times reported, noting that many websites (including this one) have displayed the seal.

Wikipedia fired back a response, according to the Times, saying the bureau had misquoted the law.

”While we appreciate your desire to revise the statute to reflect your expansive vision of it, the fact is that we must work with the actual language of the statute, not the aspirational version” that the F.B.I. had provided, the Times reported.

F.B.I. spokesman William Carter told the Times that the seal can’t be used without permission from the FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Column: Ex-Senators Say We’re Still Not Ready For Bioterrorism Attack

Ex- senators Bob Graham, a Democrat from Florida, and Jim Talent, a Republican from Missouri, served as the chair and vice chair of the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

Ex-Sen. Bob Graham/gov photo

Ex-Sen. Bob Graham/gov photo

By Bob Graham and Jim Talent
Washington Post Op-Ed Page

The two of us — at the request of Congress and in the service of two presidents — have for the past 30 months led a bipartisan effort to assess the danger of a WMD attack and recommend steps to reduce it.

In December 2008 the commission we led on the prevention of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism unanimously concluded that unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack by the end of 2013 — and that a biological attack is more likely than nuclear. This conclusion was publicly affirmed by then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

Information has since come to light about the possibility that one or more nation-states may choose to provide sophisticated biological weapons to terrorist groups. The scenario that would result is not that of more than two dozen people becoming ill and five dying, as happened after the anthrax mailings in October 2001, but a much darker picture, as described in a November 2009 National Security Council document.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Two Guyanese Men Guilty in Plot to Blow Up JFK Airport

jfk airport

jfk airport

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two Guyanese men were convicted Monday in Brooklyn federal court of plotting to blow up JFK Airport by exploding fuel tanks and fuel pipelines underneath the airport, authorities said.

Following a six-week trial, the federal jury convicted Russell Defreitas, a naturalized citizen from Guyana, and Abdul Kadir.  Authorities had been watching them at an early point in the plot and nothing ever materialized.

Authorities said Defreitas came up with the idea to attack JFK Airport and its fuel tanks and pipelines after working at the airport as a cargo handler.

Starting in 2006, he recruit Kadir and others to join the plot during multiple trips to Guyana and Trinidad, the FBI said.

Between trips, he conducted video surveillance of JFK Airport “and transported the footage back to Guyana to show to his co-conspirators.”

A third person has pleaded guilty in the case and a fourth faces trial.

“The defendants intended to send a message by killing Americans and destroying the New York City economy,” United States Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.

“Today, the only message is that those who engage in potentially deadly plots against the United States will be stopped and punished.”

Will Failed D.C. Porn Case Dampen Fed Prosecutors’ Zeal?

John Stagliano/facebook photo

John Stagliano/facebook photo

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — In courtroom 18 in the sterile D.C. federal courthouse, Justice Department prosecutors earlier this month tried nailing a major producer of adult pornography on obscenity charges.

The lawyers, part of the department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, spent four days presenting their case against California porn producer John Stagliano (aka “Buttman”), who had been indicted in 2008, during the final year of the Bush administration. As part of their case, prosecutors even played pornographic videos with names like “Milk Nymph” for the jurors.

But before the defense could even present its side, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon dismissed the case, saying the government had failed to prove the most basic of issues: that the defendant and two related companies were linked to porno videos that the government claimed went beyond the acceptable community standards.

Adult film director John Stagliano arrives at the 27th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Palms Casino Resort January 9, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller, Getty Images

A U.S. district judge earlier this month dismissed a case against porn producer John Stagliano, here at the Adult Video News Awards Show in Las Vegas in January.

The judge also raised questions about core issues in the case.

“I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience,” declared Leon, who voiced concerns about the issues of obscenity statute, the Internet, free speech and criminal rights, according to The Washington Post. “I hope that [higher] courts and Congress will give greater guidance to judges in whose courtrooms these cases will be tried.”

With the disastrous outcome in the D.C. case, and the change from the conservative Bush administration to the liberal Obama regime, some now wonder how enthusiastic the Justice Department will be in going after adult pornography cases.

“That’s a big question,” says Penn State University professor Robert D. Richards, head of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment. “How much the Obama administration will be interested in pursuing obscenity cases is questionable. It would certainly be hard pressed to pull full steam ahead. It’s not an easy area to prove.

“The real problem with obscenity is you never know if something is criminal until a jury comes back and says it’s criminal and it’s only in that jurisdiction,” he added.

Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, who blames the FBI for “botching” the D.C. case, also wonders what will become of future prosecutions. He believes even the Bush administration fell far short of its expressed goals — and has far less confidence in the Obama administration.

“We can’t continue to treat [pornography] like a joke, which is largely how the FBI has treated it,” he said. “The FBI is simply unwilling to do these cases other than a token investigation here and there, and that’s not enough.

“Adult pornography has effects on marriages, effects on children and effects on women,” he continued. “The Supreme Court has held repeatedly the First Amendment does not protect obscene material.”

The FBI deferred to the Justice Department for comment. Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined comment on the D.C. trial or on future plans to prosecute obscenity cases.

A Shift in Priorities?

The dip in the number of cases has been noticeable during the Obama administration. According to the Justice Department, prosecutors charged about 360 defendants with obscenity violations during the Bush years, nearly double the number under Bill Clinton. In 2009, about 20 defendants were charged, compared with 54 the previous year, when George W. Bush was still in office.

After Bush took office, his conservative attorney general, John Ashcroft, vowed to go after obscenity cases involving adult pornography that violated “community standards.” In 2005, Ashcroft’s successor, Alberto Gonzales, took it up a notch, creating the Justice Department’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force. The FBI also vowed to commit resources.

But the Bush people disappointed, according to Peters.

“Ashcroft failed,” he said. “[FBI Director] Bob Mueller failed and Alberto Gonzales failed. … They talked the talk and then they didn’t do it.”

Plus, he claimed, few U.S. attorneys’ offices around the country wanted to take on the cases, and even when they did, the FBI wouldn’t investigate.

Unquestionably there was skepticism within the ranks of the FBI and the Justice Department — and resistance — over the push to prosecute porn during the Bush years.

“I thought they were nuts,” said one former federal prosecutor in Washington. “And they would approach you about taking these cases, making it sound like it was a great honor. They had cases that were just [garbage].”

He said his office found ways to politely pass on prosecuting them. “Nobody liked the cases, nobody thought they accomplished anything,” he said. “They were true believers. They had a moral culture they wanted to push. It had nothing to do with enforcing the law.”

Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent in the Washington field office, said the obscenity cases were tough to prove since they were based on community standards. Plus, many agents questioned whether it was the best use of resources, particularly after Sept. 11, 2001.

“It really boiled down to priorities for most agents,” said Garrett, whose own accomplishments include nabbing a Pakistani national who gunned down two CIA employees at the agency’s headquarters in 1993. “You’ve got a limited number of people. Is it really the best use of our time to be investigating obscenity with consenting adults?”

Regardless, Allan B. Gelbard, one of the defense attorneys in the Stagliano case, said he expects the Justice Department to continue going after the cases so long as the same people are in the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force.

“It strikes me that this particular unit is so driven by ideology that they’ll probably go through [with more prosecutions] until they’re disbanded, and that can’t be too soon in my book,” he said. “They’re going to keep ruining peoples’ lives.”

The Case That Imploded

The indictment against Stagliano and two related companies, John Stagliano Inc. and Evil Angel Productions, came in April 2008, in the waning months of the Bush administration. In early July, the trial started. Things went poorly for the prosecution almost from the start.

For one, the FBI agent in the case copied from the Internet a trailer of a video — “Fetish Fanatic Chapter 5” — that had so many glitches, it failed to play properly for the jury. Consequently, the judge ruled it was inadmissible.

Then prosecutors, who had the porn DVDs shown as evidence shipped via a third party, failed to prove that Stagliano or either of the two companies had anything to do with the films or the shipping.

“It was a colossal disaster,” says Richards, the Penn State professor. “They never connected the dots, and that was fatal to the case.”

Peters of Morality in the Media has concerns about the Stagliano case, but for obviously different reasons.

“The FBI ought to be embarrassed — they blew it,” he said, adding that the FBI agent was either inexperienced or had inadequate resources.

Even after the Stagliano case, however, many in the adult entertainment industry have concerns about what direction the government will take on obscenity prosecutions.

Diane Duke, executive director of the California-based Free Speech Coalition, the industry’s trade association, said she is worried the government may continue filing what she sees as questionable charges against studios, aiming to bleed them to death through legal fees that can run upward of a million dollars.

“They know they’re going to do damage to our companies, no matter what,” she said. “I think there’s people in our government who respect freedom of speech and the Constitution, and it’s my hope those folks will prevail.”

Marshals Target Top 500 Most Dangerous Sex Offenders as Part of Crackdown on Child Exploitation

Atty. Gen. Holder/doj photo

Atty. Gen. Holder/doj file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — As part of an initiative to crack down on child exploitation, the U.S. Marshals Service is launching a program targeting the top 500 most dangerous convicted sex offenders who aren’t in compliance with the sex registration laws, the Justice Department announced Monday.

The program is part of a nationwide initiative — the National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction — that was unveiled Monday by Atty. General Eric Holder Jr.

The strategy includes plans to create a national database that will enable federal, state, tribal, local and international law enforcement partners to coordinate investigations better.

Additionally, Holder said the Justice Department has created 38 additional Assistant U.S. Attorney positions to devote to child exploitation cases. It will also fill vacancies in that area.

“Although we’ve made meaningful progress in protecting children across the country, and although we’ve brought a record number of offenders to justice in recent years, it is time to renew our commitment to this work,” Holder said in a statement.

“It is time to intensify our efforts,” he added. “This new strategy provides the roadmap necessary to do just that – to streamline our education, prevention and prosecution activities; to improve information sharing and collaboration; and to make the most effective use of limited resources.”

Column: Kidnapping For Ransom — Bad Business Model

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

Suspects in 1975 kidnapping of GM exec's son/ detroit free press

Suspects in 1975 kidnapping of GM exec's son/ detroit free press

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

It was February, 1980 in Detroit.

I was assigned to the FBI surveillance squad (with apologies to Jack Webb and his introductions to “Dragnet”). It was very cold in the back of the van. We hadn’t yet installed a heater that would work when the van wasn’t running.

I had been driven to a spot where I could observe the ransom drop site from the small one-way window in the back of panel van. The driver had parked the van and left. He was picked up a few blocks away by one of the other surveillance cars. If anyone was watching, they would think the van was empty.

Kidnappings. It was one of many I would work in my career as an FBI agent. As I would witness, time and again, it was a lousy way for criminals to make money. Particularly as technology improved, it became clear: The business model simply didn’t work. And I thought it was worth recounting why.

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