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Archive for October, 2020

Sessions, Rosenstein Were ‘Driving Force’ Behind Trump’s Child Separation Policy

A detention center, via CBP.

By Steve Neavling

In a May 2018 call with U.S. attorneys along the border with Mexico, then-Attorney General Jeff Session was blunt about what President Trump wanted. 

“We need to take away children,” Sessions told the five prosecutors, referring to Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy, according to an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, first reported by The New York Times.

In a second call about a week later, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told prosecutors that age was not a factor and that they should not have dropped two cases because the parents had children who were barely more than infants.

Sessions and Rosenstein were a “driving force” behind the controversial policy that led to the separation of thousands of families, despite their past attempts to distance themselves, according to a draft report by Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.

“The department’s single-minded focus on increasing prosecutions came at the expense of careful and effective implementation of the policy, especially with regard to prosecution of family-unit adults and the resulting child separations,” the draft report said.

In a statement to the Times, a DOJ spokesperson denied the conclusions reached in the Horowitz report, and Rosenstein said he never directed prosecutors to pursue cases they objected to. 

“If any United States attorney ever charged a defendant they did not personally believe warranted prosecution, they violated their oath of office,” Mr. Rosenstein said in a statement. “I never ordered anyone to prosecute a case.”

Iran Ordered to Pay Ex-FBI Agent Robert Levinson’s Family $1.45B in Damages for His Kidnapping

Robert Levinson disappeared while in Iran.

By Steve Neavling

A U.S. judge has ordered Iran’s government to pay $1.45 billion to the family of former FBI agent Robert A. Levinson, whose 2007 disappearance while on an unauthorized CIA mission remains a mystery.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly last week awarded Iran to pay Levinson’s family $1.35 billion in punitive damages and $107 million in compensatory damages for his kidnapping, Reuters reported Monday.

Some intelligence officials believe Levinson may be dead, but the search for him has never ended. 

“This judgment is the first step in the pursuit of justice for Robert Levinson, an American patriot, who was kidnapped and subjected to unimaginable suffering for more than 13 years,” Levinson’s family said in a statement. 

“Until now, Iran has faced no consequences for its actions. Judge Kelly’s decision won’t bring Bob home, but we hope that it will serve as a warning against further hostage-taking by Iran,” the family said. “We intend to find any and every avenue, and pursue all options, to seek justice for Robert Levinson.” 

Reuters was unable to reach a spokesman for Iran’s mission to the U.N. for comment.  

Levinson, who would be 72 today, disappeared while on a CIA operation on Kish Island in Iran in March 2027.  The Iranian government initially responded that it had detained Levinson but soon backed off that story and has since maintained it has no idea about Levinson’s whereabouts.

Kristi Koons Johnson named assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office

Kristi Koons Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.

By Steve Neavling

Kristi Koons Johnson has been named assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. 

Johnson was serving as the special agent in charge of the Omaha Field Office in Nebraska.

Johnson became an FBI special agent in 1999, working for a decade in the Chicago Field Office, where she investigated organized crime and public corruption. In 2007, she began leading a public corruption squad as a supervisory special agent. 

Johnson was tapped in 2010 to serve as the chief division counsel for the Omaha office, where she provided legal advice about investigations and FBI policy.

In 2014, another promotion brought Johnson to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she was unit chief in the bureau’s Internal Policy Office, managing day-to-day operations. 

In 2016, she returned to the Omaha Office as the assistant special agent in charge of national security, cyber, and intelligence matters.

In 2018, Johnson was back at headquarters serving as chief of the Transnational Organized Crime Section of the Criminal Investigative Division, which manages investigations and collects intelligence of transnational criminal organizations.

In 2019, Johnson was promoted to special agent in charge of the Omaha office, which is responsible for operations and personnel across Iowa and Nebraska. Her focus was on preparing for crises by establishing partnerships with private sector and community partners, and enhancing relationships with federal, state and local agencies.

Johnson also has served as a trainer at the International Law Enforcement Academy in San Salvador, El Salvador, and in Skopje, Macedonia. In addition, she has served in temporary duty positions in Moscow and Athens, Greece, as the assistant legal attaché.

Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a law degree from the University of Detroit-Mercy.

William Barr to Self-Quarantine After Possible Exposure to Coronavirus

Attorney General William Barr, via Justice Department.

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General William Barr will self-quarantine after refusing to do so on Friday following possible exposure to the coronavirus from members of President Trump’s inner circle. 

A Justice Department spokesperson told The Associated Press that Barr plans stay inside his home for several days after attending a meeting at Justice Department headquarters, hours after Trump announced he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Barr has tested negative four times for COVID-19 since Friday, the spokesperson Kerri Kupec said.  

Last week, Barr attended a ceremony for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett in the White House Rose Garden, where more than 150 people assembled shoulder to shoulder without social distancing. Barr was seen speaking with former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, who tested positive for COVID-19. Neither wore a mask.  

At least eight attendees tested positive for the virus, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Notre Dame President John Jenkins, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has checked into a hospital. 

Trump Blasted for Putting Secret Service Agents at Risk During ‘Joy Ride’ around Walter Reed

By Steve Neavling

Secret Service agents are trained to take a bullet for the U.S. president. 

But on Sunday, agents faced an entirely different – and unnecessary – risk when they drove President Trump, infected with COVID-19, around Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  

The jaunt drew strong criticism from current and former Secret Service agents, as well as doctors. 

“He’s not even pretending to care now,” one agent told The Washington Post.

“Where are the adults?” a former Secret Service member said. 

White House spokesman Judd Deere insisted “appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it,” adding that the trip “was cleared by the medical team as safe to do.”

Although Trump wore a mask during the jaunt around the hospital, doctors said face coverings are not perfect. 

Masks “help, but they are not an impenetrable force field,” tweeted Saad B. Omer, director of the Yale Institute for Global Health.

Doctors said the Secret Service agents will have to be quarantined for 14 days. 

“They might get sick. They may die. For political theater,” James P. Phillips, a professor at George Washington University who is affiliated with Walter Reed, tweeted. “Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity.”

Phillips described the risk of viral transmission “as high as it gets outside of medical procedures,” especially since the SUV is “hermetically sealed.”

“The irresponsibility is astounding,” Phillips tweeted. 

Inside a hospital, physicians and nurses wear extensive protective gear such as gowns, gloves, and N95 masks, said Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University.

“By taking a joy ride outside Walter Reed the president is placing his Secret Service detail at grave risk,” Reiner tweeted.

Amazon Streaming ‘Disturbing,’ False Pseudo-documentary on DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena

A portion of this story, which appears in Spy Talk, is being republished here with permission.

By Elaine Shannon

Does the world need another Deep State conspiracy theory?  

Amazon Studios obviously thinks so. 

In these grim times, with tens of millions of Americans frightened, angry and ready to believe the worst about their government and each other, Amazon Studios and Amazon Prime have inexplicably chosen to stream a disturbing pseudo-documentary that falsely claims that the CIA and the DEA conspired with Mexican drug kingpins to torture and murder a brave American.

The Last Narc, produced by Texas filmmaker Tiller Russell, is a cynical reimagining of the 1985 death of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was dragged into a car outside the U.S. consulate in Guadalajara on February 7, 1985. DEA and FBI agents assigned to Operation Leyenda, as DEA called the murder investigation, plunged deep into Mexico. They didn’t find every fact, but they got enough of them to be sure that the horrendous crime was orchestrated by Guadalajara cartel kingpins and corrupt Mexican officials at all levels.

As a correspondent for Newsweek, then Time, I followed the investigators as they pounded the streets of Guadalajara, the dirt tracks along the border, the sterile hallways of the FBI forensics lab and government executive suites in Washington. I broke dozens of stories about the murder and the growth of the Latin cartels. I wrote a best-selling book, Desperados, published in 1988, about the Camarena case and the narcokleptocracy that killed him.

Along the way I met dozens of heroes—honest men and women, badge-wearers and civilians, citizens of several countries, who turned up truths deemed inconvenient by much of official Washington, Mexico City, Wall Street and international banks addicted to drug money.

One hero was U.S. Customs Commissioner Willy von Raab, who, a week after Camarena disappeared, ordered 100 percent inspections of all people and vehicles attempting to cross from Mexico. He effectively slammed the border shut and unrepentantly incurred the wrath of his  boss, Treasury Secretary (and future secretary of state) James Baker, one of the most formidable humans ever to park his wingtips under a mahogany desk in the nation’s capital. But Von Raab’s bold move worked. On March 5, after merchants on both sides of the border howled in financial pain, the Mexican police “discovered” Camarena’s body, exhumed from a shallow grave in Guadalajara and dumped on a roadside in the next state.

To Read the Rest Click Here

Weekend Series on Crime: Why Colombia is Losing the Drug War

At Least 11 Employees at Secret Service Training Facility Tested Positive for COVID-19 in August

By Steve Neavling

At least 11 employees tested positive for COVID-19 at a Secret Service training facility in Maryland in August, according to a new report. 

It’s believed the employees were infected during training sessions and a graduation ceremony that lacked social distancing, The New York Times reported on Friday morning.

The Times learned about the infections from the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group.

The news comes just hours after the bombshell announcement that President Trump and first lady Melanie Trump became infected with COVID-19.

In a statement, the Secret Service said it “has taken significant precautions at its training center to protect the health and welfare of its trainees and training staff.”  

It’s still unclear whether any of the Secret Service agents who work directly with the president have become infected.