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Archive for October 29th, 2020

Ex-Justice Official Praises FBI-Ukraine Cooperation in Kidnapping Case but Blasts Trump

By Allan Lengel

A former Justice Department official on Thursday praised the cooperation between the FBI and Ukraine for the indictment and arrest of an Afghan national charged with kidnapping former New York Times reporter David Rohde in 2008.

At the same time, Steven Pelak, the former chief of the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department, criticized President Donald Trump for putting such cooperation between the FBI and Ukraine in jeopardy. The suspect was arrested in Ukraine and transferred Tuesday to the U.S. where he made an initial federal court appearance in New York before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang on Wednesday.

David Rohde

“The President’s foreign bribery scheme and obstruction of justice put such efforts at risk,” Pelak tells ticklethewire.com. “By seeking to abuse the criminal justice system in Ukraine and the U.S. for personal gain, Mr Trump put the day-to-day good faith working relationships of U.S. and Ukrainian law enforcement at risk. 

“Over time, such relationships are built and persist only with honesty and the rule of law.  That is an important part of the story and lesson,” Pelak said, of the efforts to coerce Ukrainian officials to obtain false evidence against Biden.

According to authorities, in November 2008,  Haji Najibullah, 44, of Afghanistan and his co-conspirators, armed with machineguns, kidnapped the Rohde and two Afghan nationals who were assisting him.

Ex-DOJ official Steven Pelak

About five days later, Najibullah and others forced the three hostages to hike across the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where they were held hostage for seven months.

During their captivity, Najibullah and others forced the victims to make numerous calls and videos seeking help. In one video, Rohde was forced to beg for his life while a guard pointed a machinegun at his face.

Rohde, who now works for the New Yorker, and one of the other captives escaped. The third person stayed behind.

“Whether someone commits a violent act against an American citizen here at home or overseas, we’ll never stop aggressively pursuing charges against them and, when necessary, seeking their transfer to U.S. custody,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the FBI William F. Sweeney Jr said in a statement.  “Najibullah’s reprehensible actions over a decade ago earned him a flight to the U.S. yesterday. Today he arrived in U.S. federal court to face our justice system.”

Two other defendants in the case are still at large.

It was “great work by the FBI with an assist by Ukraine,” said Pelak, who also worked at one time as an assistant U.S Attorney in the D.C. office handling terrorism. He currently practices law in D.C. with the firm Holland & Hart.

Former DHS Chief of Staff Comes Out As Anonymous Trump Author

Miles Taylor, the former Homeland Security chief of staff.

By Steve Neavling

Miles Taylor, the former Homeland Security chief of staff, revealed himself as the anonymous author of a New York Times op-ed and a book that was heavily critical of President Trump. 

“To be clear, writing those works was not about eminence (they were published without attribution), not about money (I declined a hefty monetary advance and pledged to donate the bulk of the proceeds), and not about crafting a score-settling ‘tell all’ (my focus was on the President himself and his character, not denigrating former colleagues),” Taylor wrote in a Medium post.

Taylor, who denied being “Anonymous” as recently as August, said he struggled with the decision to attack the president and said he “wanted this President to succeed” when he first joined the administration with John Kelly, Trump’s first Homeland Security secretary and later the White House chief of staff. 

But, he wrote, someone had to hold Trump accountable. 

“Too often in times of crisis, I saw Donald Trump prove he is a man without character, and his personal defects have resulted in leadership failures so significant that they can be measured in lost American lives,” Taylor wrote. “I witnessed Trump’s inability to do his job over the course of two-and-a-half years.”

Taylor also was the chief of staff to Secretary Kirstjen, serving at DHS from 2017 to 2019. 

Ex-DEA Spokesman Sentenced to 7 years in prison for Posing As CIA Operative in Elaborate $4 Million Fraud Scheme

Garrison Kenneth Courtney. Photo via Alexandria Sheriff’s Office.

By Steve Neavling

A former DEA spokesman to seven years in prison Wednesday to posing as an undercover CIA operative to defraud government contractors out of more than $4 million.

Garrison Kenneth Courtney, who served as a DEA spokesman between 2005 and 2009, pleaded guilty in June to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.

Prosecutors said the 44-year-old Florida resident posed as a covert CIA officer serving on a highly classified task force, whose mission was to enhance the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the U.S. government.

No such task force existed, and Courtney had never worked for the CIA.

“Courtney’s brazen and salacious fraud was centered on the lie that he was involved in a highly-classified intelligence program and that he was a covered CIA officer engaged in significant national security work,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney in the Eastern of Virginia, said in a statement.

“In fact, Courtney never worked for the CIA, the supposed classified program did not exist, and Courtney invented the elaborate lie to cheat his victims out of over $4.4 million,” Terwilliger said.

As part of the scheme, Courtney convinced several public officials that he was a CIA operative and told them they had been chosen to participate in the program, using “those officials as unwitting props falsely to burnish his legitimacy,” prosecutors said. The government officials unwittingly repeated those claims to the companies, giving his scheme an air of legitimacy.

The investigation was carried out by multiple law enforcement agencies.

Terwilliger had faced up to 20 years in prison.