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October 2011


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for October, 2011

The War of the Letters: Rep. Issa Fires Back at Atty. Gen. Holder; Accuses Holder of Shifting Blame

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Allan Lengel

The war of letters between Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif) and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. continues.

The latest: Issa released on Monday a letter he sent to Holder sharply chastising him. Issa’s letter was in response to one Holder wrote Friday to Issa saying his his Congressional testimony on Operation Fast and Furious was truthful. ATF operation encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell to straw purchasers, with hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican Carels. But ATF lost track of many guns, some which surfaced at crimes scenes on both sides of the border.

“Your letter dated October 7 is deeply disappointing,” Issa wrote. “Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate, and attempt to change the topic away from the Department’s responsibility in the creation, implementation, and authorization of this reckless program.

“You claim that, after months of silence, you ‘must now address these issues’ over Fast and Furious because of the harmful discourse of the past few days. Yet, the only major development of these past few days has been the release of multiple documents showing that you and your senior staff had been briefed, on numerous occasions, about Fast and Furious.”

Holder testified before Congress earlier this year that he hadn’t heard of the operation until the controversy over it surfaced.

Holder said even though Justice Department briefing papers in 2010 mentioned Fast and Furious, he did not read them and relied on his staff to brief him on important matters because of the volume of cases the department handles.

Issa continued in his letter:

“You failed to own up to your responsibility to safeguard the American public by hiding behind “[a]ttorneys in [your] office and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General,” who you now claim did not bring this information to your attention.  As a result of your failure to act on these memos sent to you, nearly 500 additional firearms were purchased under Fast and Furious.

“The facts simply do not support any claim that Fast and Furious did not reach the highest levels of the Justice Department. Actually, Fast and Furious did reach the ultimate authority in the Department – you.”

The  Full Letter:

Dear Attorney General Holder:

From the beginning of the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice has offered a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program. These defenses have been aimed at undermining the investigation. From the start, the Department insisted that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked Senator Grassley and me to defer our oversight responsibilities over its concerns about our purported interference with its ongoing criminal investigations. Additionally, the Department steadfastly insisted that gunwalking did not occur.

Read more »

Shame on the Justice Dept. For Screwing Families in Boston Murder Cases


Whitey Bulger

By Allan Lengel

The U.S. Justice Department can feel proud that an appeals court Thursday essentially upheld its right to screw the families whose relatives were allegedly murdered by Boston gangster James J. “Whitey’’ Bulger.

Bulger was working as an FBI informant and running wild, and a Boston federal judge back in 2009 awarded the families nearly $8.5 million, saying the government was negligent when it essentially let informant Bulger — under its watch — get away with murder. Bulger was linked to the 1982 murders of Michael Donahue and Edward “Brian’’ Halloran, who were both gunned down on the Boston waterfront in 1982.

In February, an Appeals Court panel ruled 2-1 to vacate the award,  agreeing with the Justice Department, which argued that the families had not filed their claims for damages in time.  The Boston Globe reported on Thursday that the Appeals Court ruled 3-3 on the matter, letting stand the 2-1 decision.

Congratulations to the Justice Department. Yes, it was legally right.  Ethically and morally, it was very very wrong. But in Washington, winning is often more important than doing the right thing.

Interestingly, the court said in its ruling, according to the Globe: “Under the Constitution, federal courts may not make decisions based on sympathy. The legal issue presented by these cases is not whether the conduct of the FBI was shameful; it was. It is not whether plaintiffs are victims of that conduct; they are.’’

Perhaps the dissenting opinion from Judge Juan R. Torruella put it best:

“James ‘Whitey’ Bulger has finally been apprehended and is now being haled into the federal courthouse in Boston to answer for the crimes he allegedly committed years ago. But, unlike Bulger himself, thanks to the panel majority’s decision and the full court’s refusal to reverse it, Bulger’s most trusted associate, the Boston FBI office, has gotten away with murder.’’

One lawyer for the  family told the Globe that he would try to convince the Supreme Court to take up the appeal. I don’t think it’s likely to take up the case since there’s no great legal precedent here; just a matter of right and wrong.

The Justice Department should have simply paid out the money. But nooo.

Yes, the Justice Department has good lawyers. And yes, they won. But winning isn’t always everything, particularly when the Justice Department looks like the real loser here.


It’s Out: Whitey Bulger Tipster is Former Miss Iceland

Updated Bulger photo/wbur

By Danny Fenster

The former Miss Iceland Anna Bjornsdottir was splitting her time between Iceland and Santa Monica, Calif. when, at home in Iceland, she saw a photo of her Santa Monica neighbors, Carole and Charlie Gasko, flash across the TV screen, according to CBS Boston. The Gaskos’ were actually mob boss Whitey Bulger and girlfriend Carole Greig. Bjornsdottir called the FBI.

While the tip led the FBI to Bulger, some say the FBI’s inability to protect Bjornsdottir’s identity may harm not only her safety but the integrity of the whole tipster program, reports the Boston Herald.

“They can’t guarantee her 100 percent safety going forward,” former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan told the Herald. “It’s unnecessary publicity and unnecessary harassment.”

CBS Boston reports that Bjornsdottir bonded with Whitey’s girlfriend Carole over a stray cat. “Cathy took this cat under her wing. She would come out every morning and feed this cat. While she was feeding the cat, Anna was stop, and they would talk. They developed a bit of a bond,” CBS Boston quotes a Boston Globe report.

To read more click here.

Miami Fed Juror Charged With Soliciting Bribe During Trial

By Danny Fenster

Italo Campagna was serving as a juror in Miami an ongoing federal criminal trial when he slipped the defendant’s father a piece of paper outside the courthouse with a telephone number on it.

Later that afternoon, Campagna, 55,  met with the defendant’s brother, who had contacted him, and arranged to meet in Miami Beach to discuss the case.

In charges announced last week by the FBI, authorities alleged that Campagna offered the defendant’s brother his ability to persuade jurors to vote not guilty in exchange for a  payment between  $50,000 and $100,000.

The brother notified FBI agents and began working with the agency.

He called Campagna back, asking if he was still interested, all the while recording the phone call. Campagna said he was still interested, and they arranged a date and time to discuss a final price. They met later that day, where the brother was able to get Campagna to confirm the details of the trade, and to settle on $20,000. They walked back to the brother’s car, where he handed over what appeared to be a bundle of cash in a brown bag to Campagna, who was then arrested.

“The credibility and public confidence in our criminal justice system hinge on the integrity of individuals serving as jurors. If that integrity is compromised, then so are our efforts to bring criminals to justice,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo A. Ferrer in a statement. “This case should serve as a stern reminder of the consequences that follow a breach of a juror’s sworn duty to follow the law.”

Upcoming Article Raises More Questions About Anthrax Attack

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

New York Times

A decade after wisps of anthrax sent through the mail killed 5 people, sickened 17 others and terrorized the nation, biologists and chemists still disagree on whether federal investigators got the right man and whether the F.B.I.’s long inquiry brushed aside important clues.

Now, three scientists argue that distinctive chemicals found in the dried anthrax spores — including the unexpected presence of tin — point to a high degree of manufacturing skill, contrary to federal reassurances that the attack germs were unsophisticated. The scientists make their case in a coming issue of the Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense.

F.B.I. documents reviewed by The New York Times show that bureau scientists focused on tin early in their eight-year investigation, calling it an “element of interest” and a potentially critical clue to the criminal case. They later dropped their lengthy inquiry, never mentioned tin publicly and never offered any detailed account of how they thought the powder had been made.

To read the full story click there.

FBI Unveils New Facial Recognition System

By Danny Fenster

Prepare yourselves for a protracted battle between privacy rights advocates and the FBI this winter. FBI officials told the website NextGov by January they will activate a nationwide facial recognition service, allowing local police in select states to identify unknown subjects in photos.

The Feds are embarking on “a multiyear, $1 billion dollar overhaul of the FBI’s existing fingerprint database to more quickly and accurately identify suspects,” reports NextGov. The upgrade will include the use of  other biometric markers like iris scans and voice recordings.

Often law enforcement authorities will “have a photo of a person and for whatever reason they just don’t know who it is [but they know] this is clearly the missing link to our case,” Nick Megna, a unit chief at the FBI’s criminal justice information services division, told NextGov.

Currently, officers would need the name of an individual to search for mugshots in their database. But, according to NextGov,

“Using the new Next-Generation Identification system that is under development, law enforcement analysts will be able to upload a photo of an unknown person; choose a desired number of results from two to 50 mug shots; and, within 15 minutes, receive identified mugs to inspect for potential matches.”

Sunita Patel, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, has voiced concerns about the new technology.

“Any database of personal identity information is bound to have mistakes. And with the most personal immutable traits like our facial features and fingerprints, the public can’t afford a mistake,” she said, according to NextGov. “The federal government is using local cops to create a massive surveillance system.”

Michigan, Washington, Florida and North Carolina will test out the new systems this winter, before it is unrolled nationwide in 2014, the website reported.

To read more click here.

Rep. Issa Says More Subpoenas Coming in Fast and Furious

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Hells Angels

The Bandido Nation Bikers