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Archive for June, 2015

Famous San Francisco Activist, Black Panther Was FBI Informant

Richard Masato Aoki

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Richard Masato Aoki, widely considered a hero among activists and liberal political groups in the San Francisco area, was an FBI informant who filed more than 500 reports about activists with the bureau.

The Mercury News reports that newly revealed FBI documents show for the first time the extent that Aoki was a government informant.

Aoki was trusted in the activist community, especially among Black Panthers. But FBI records show that Aoki provided “top level” information the Black Panthers and their leaders, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.

What’s unclear is whether the FBI knew Aoki was providing guns to the Black Panthers.

” If the FBI knew Aoki was arming the Panthers, or was involved in that, it would raise questions about whether the bureau was attempting to foment violence that would discredit the Panthers or set them up for a police crackdown,” the Mercury News wrote.

Aoki committed suicide in his Berkeley home in 2009.

Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Trying to Blow Up Bomb at Airport

Terry Lee Loewen

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Kansas man pleaded guilty Monday to attempting to detonate a card bomb at the Wichita airport.

Terry Lee Loewen, 59, caught the attention of authorities on social media after he began expressing support for violent jihad.

He pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Authorities arrested Loewen in December 2013 after he entered Wichita Mid-Continental Airport.

“Terry Loewen utilized his privileged airport access to attempt a terrorist attack in Wichita,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Detecting, disrupting and holding accountable those who wish to harm Americans remains our highest priority.”

Loewen began meeting with an FBI informant who posed as an extremists.

Octogenarian Mobster In Lufthansa Heist Case Is One Of A Kind

Jerry Capeci is considered an expert on the mob. He is the founder of the website, Gang Land News, a paid subscription site.  This article was republished with permission.
 
By Jerry Capeci
Gang Land News

Bonanno capo Vincent Asaro has a lot of firsts on his Mafia resume. The 80-year-old Queens man is a third generation mobster, having followed his father and grandfather into the mob. He added yet another generation when he sponsored his son to be a “made man.” He is also the only wiseguy ever charged with taking part in one of Gang Land’s most famous crimes, the storied $6 million Lufthansa Airlines heist. A former heroin addict, Asarokicked the habit “cold turkey” in the 1950s. He also kicked some ass. After a group of men abused his old man, he used his fists to pummel them, one at a time, while a cohort held the rest of the crowd at bay with a firearm.

Those are some of the high — or low — lights of Asaro’s career according to a trio of federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, who want to keep him behind bars for how ever many years he has left. That’s where he’s been for the past 16 months as he awaits trial for the daring pre-dawn Kennedy Airport robbery in 1978, as well as for a 1969 murder.

Last week, prosecutors asked Judge Alynne Ross to let them use evidence about Asaro’s “heroin use, illegal gambling and borrowing money” at his upcoming trial. They say that is “necessary to complete the story of the charged crimes” for the jurors who will have to decide whether Asaro is

guilty of murder and a slew of other crimes in what they describe as a 45-year-long racketeering conspiracy.

The prosecutors say they have “many witnesses” prepared to testify how Asaro “evolved from a teenage heroin addict into a mastermind of the Lufthansa Heist.”

The witnesses would describe a “powerful but broke mafia leader,” one who substituted one addiction for another by blowing all the money he made during his life of crime by “gambling, both illegal and legal, to anextreme degree.”

He is not the first mobster to become addicted to heroin, but Asaro, who was on a three-member Bonanno family ruling panel in 2012, is the first known ex-junkie to serve as an Administration member of one of the notorious Five Families.

“The defendant’s story is one of redemption and loss,” prosecutors Nicole Argentieri, Alicyn Cooley and Lindsay Gerdes wrote. “Witnesses are expected to testify regarding the defendant’s drug addiction and how he apparently beat it ‘cold turkey’ so that he could join the Asaros’ ranks of mafia soldiers. In addition, (they) are expected to testify that (Asaro) at one point was demoted from the rank of captain due to, among other things, his repeated appropriation of money from the individuals assigned to him in order to feed his gambling addiction.”

In the 1960s, after he kicked his heroin habit, Asaro “earned respect from the mafia for being an earner,” by taking part in “robberies, the sale of stolen goods and loansharking,” prosecutors wrote. In that decade, his father Jerome schooled him, and introduced him to James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke, the murderous Luchese gangster who is the recognized mastermind of the heist, they wrote.

In a voluminous 72-page filing, the prosecutors write that testimony by six cooperating witnesses will directly link Asaro’s heroin addiction and his obsessive gambling losses to his guilt of many charged crimes in the indictment, particularly the Lufthansa robbery.

“Many cooperating witnesses and civilian witnesses with personal knowledge of the defendant are expected to testify that the defendant struggled with heroin addiction as a teenager and into his twenties,” wrote prosecutors Argentieri, Cooley and Gerdes.

Among those prepared to testify about the Bonanno veteran are Asaro’s cousin Gaspar (Gary) Valenti, 68, who says he took part in the Lufthansa heist with Burke, as well as a second witness, former Gambino associate Anthony Ruggiano Jr., 61, who would detail Asaro’s heroin use — as well as his compulsive gambling, the prosecutors wrote.

Read more »

Star-Tribune: FBI’s Use of Small Planes for Surveillance Crosses Line

By Editorial Board
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Last week, reports surfaced that the FBI had flown small single-engine planes over 30 cities across the U.S. The planes, outfitted with video and cellphone surveillance equipment, were registered to fictitious companies in order to shield the government’s role during this domestic surveillance operation.

Cellphone surveillance equipment, commonly known as Stingrays, mimics existing cellphone towers, forcing cellphones to connect to them. If Stingrays were deployed, any phone calls, text messages or data transmitted while the FBI was circling overhead were intercepted before being relayed to their final destination. The indiscriminate nature of Stingray technology ensures that cellphone data will be collected from innocent American citizens.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has expressed his concern to the U.S. attorney general and the director of national intelligence, asking under what legal authority the FBI was operating and what equipment was on board those planes. The American people will likely never learn the answers to these questions, though the senator may be treated to a classified briefing. While this may answer his questions, Franken would be unable to disclose any information to the public.

Of course, this is not the first time the FBI has leveraged secrecy to overstep its legal authority. COINTELPRO was an FBI program that illegally monitored the activities of many Americans for 15 years. This program was used to “expose, disrupt, misdirect or otherwise neutralize” groups or individuals that the FBI deemed subversive, such as antiwar activists and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Given the lack of legislative or judicial oversight, former presidents also used this program to spy on political opponents.

The existence of COINTELPRO was exposed in 1971, when activists burglarized an FBI field office and published documents related to the program. The FBI’s response was to declare the program terminated and close many of its field offices. Closing offices and making bold statements does not change the secretive nature of the FBI, and many similar tactics became integrated into other operations.

Thirty years later, after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent passage of the Patriot Act, the FBI dramatically increased the use of national security letters, or NSLs. These are essentially search warrants compelling the recipient to disclose information, such as customer records from companies like banks and Internet service providers. But unlike a search warrant, an NSL is not signed by a judge and it comes with a gag order preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing its existence. Over 300,000 NSLs have been issued since 2000.

To read more click here. 

Bill Would Give FBI More Resources to Fight Online Harassment

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a bill that would give the FBI more  resources to tackle cybercrime, especially online harassment, the Washington Post reports.

The bill by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., would give the FBI 10 new agents whose sole jobs would be tackling threats made online. They would investigate stalkers and people who threaten violence.

Clark said online threats are increasing to alarming rates.

“While these threats may occur on the Internet, their impacts are far from virtual,” Clark told The Post. “They affect the bottom line for victims, who pay a real cost not just emotionally but also financially —  in fees to attorneys and private investigators, or to services to scrub personally identifying information from the Web. I don’t think that women, who are the primary targets of this kind of abuse, should have to do this alone.”

Border Patrol Helicopter Comes Under Fire; FBI Investigates

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is trying to determine who fired shots at a Border Patrol helicopter on Friday, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing near the Mexican border.

The helicopter was carrying at least one Border Patrol agent during an operational mission along the Rio Grande near Laredo, Texas, when it came under fire, Reuters reports.

“The rounds penetrated and damaged the aircraft, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing,” Special Agent Michelle Lee told Reuters.

No one was injured, she said.

It wasn’t clear this weekend whether the shots came from the American or Mexican side of the border, which the FBI is investigating.

The Texas Rangers also are helping investigate.

Homeland Security Chairman: Espionage Motivates China to Hack U.S.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Evidence n0t only points to China as the culprit behind “the most significant breach in U.S. History,” but the hackers may have been sponsored by the Chinese government, The Hill reports. 

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said all indications are that hackers were motivated espionage because of the target, the Office of Personnel Management.

It’s not only looking very likely that someone located in China hacked the U.S.

“It was perhaps nation-state sponsored because of the way it was done,” he said. “It was done for espionage.”

“This is an area where there are no rules to the game,” McCaul added. “It raises all sorts of issues for Americans.”

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