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Archive for January, 2021

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Gambino Crime Family

Update: Ex-FBI Attorney Clinesmith Sentenced to Probation for Altering Email in Carter Page Surveillance Case

Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith.

By Steve Neavling

Updated: 7:44 p.m. Sunday-– Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in D.C. to probation for altering an email used to obtain continued surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The prosecutor in the case had asked for prison time.

________________________________

From Friday

The former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty in August to altering an email used to seek the continued surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page is scheduled to be sentenced today.

The Justice Department is seeking a prison sentence of between two to six months for Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted he doctored the email, which was submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). 

Attorneys with special counsel John Durham previously said in a court filing that the case “filed public disgust of the FBI and entire” FISA program.

“An attorney — particularly an attorney in the FBI’s Office of General Counsel — is the last person that FBI agents or this Court should expect to create a false document,” prosecutors Anthony Scarpelli and Neeraj N. Patel wrote. “This Court’s sentence should be designed, in part, to send a powerful message to the community that this type of conduct — falsifying information to hide facts from a court — will not be tolerated.”

Clinestmith faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, but the sentencing guidelines call for zero to six months behind bars. 

Clinestmith’s attorneys are requesting probation and community service. 

“By altering a colleague’s email, he cut a corner in a job that required far better of him. He failed to live up to the FBI’s and his own high standards of conduct,” lead Clinesmith defense attorney Justin V. Shur wrote in a sentencing request.

Clinestmith’s guilty plea stems from the investigation into how the Obama administration investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The email suggested that Page was not a source for the CIA, even though he had a relationship with the agency.

Clinesmith admitted he was guilty but said he believed at the time that his statement about Page was true.

Longtime D.B. Cooper Suspect Died As Skyjacking Case Remains Unsolved

FBI sketches of D.B. Cooper.

By Steve Neavling

Sheridan Peterson, once considered the chief suspect in the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, has died at the age of 94. 

He died in California on Jan. 8, according to his obituary on Legacy.com, as first reported by The Oregonian on Thursday.

Peterson was a former Boeing employee, experienced skydiver and World War II Marine Corps vet. 

The FBI never determined the identify of D.B. Cooper, making the case the only unsolved skyjacking in U.S. history. But Peterson was long a suspect and one of the few people whom the FBI tested for DNA in 2004. The FBI never publicly cleared Peterson.

A man who went by Dan Cooper boarded Northwest Orient Flight 305 in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 24 and claimed to have a bomb. He forced the plane to fly to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where he got $200,000 in ransom money. He subsequently parachuted from the plane and was never found.

The FBI said it had ended its investigation in 2016, saying the suspect may have died during the treacherous jump. But a year later, the bureau said it may resume the search after a team of private investigators coordinated by a filmmaker found “an odd piece of buried foam” that they believed may be material from Cooper’s parachute backpack.

On the 56th anniversary of the hijacking in 2017, the FBI publicized a letter that someone claiming to be the suspect sent to newspapers.

Ralph Himmelsbach, the lead FBI agent in the case, died in October 2019.

After his retirement, Himmelsbach wrote the book “Norjak: The Investigation of D.B. Cooper” and “The Secrets of the FBI.”

Homeland Security Warns of Threats from Domestic Violent Extremists

By Steve Neavling

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday warned in a bulletin of the potential for violence from domestic extremists following the U.S. Capitol siege. 

The department didn’t mention specific threats but described “a heightened threat environment across the United States, which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the successful Presidential Inauguration.”

“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said.

The bulletin added that extremists may be “emboldened” by the Capitol riot. 

The motivation for future violence includes “anger over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, and police use of force.”

It added that some violent extremists are motivated by “long-standing racial and ethnic tension,” such as immigration issues. The bulletin cited the 2019 mass shooting at a Wall Mart in El Paso, Texas, that left 23 people dead. 

More than 400 suspects in the Capitol riots have been identified, and about 135 have been arrested. At least 134 police officers were assaulted and injured during the siege.

Comey Says Senate Should Ban Trump from Running for Public Office

Former FBI Director James Comey, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

Former FBI Director James Comey says the Senate should convict Donald Trump for inciting a riot at the U.S. Capitol and prohibit him from running for public office in the future. 

“It’s an offense committed in broad daylight in front of the whole country,” Comey said in an interview Wednesday with Power & Politics.

The Senate trial of Trump’s second impeachment is set to begin in early February. Trump is accused of “inciting an insurrection.”

Comey, whom Trump fired in May 2017, said the House impeachment is “a very important first step.”

But the impeachment alone doesn’t ban him from holding public office. That will require action by the Senate, which may not have enough votes from Republicans. 

“Part of the accountability for the attack on Capitol Hill has to be him being found to have committed it and then most importantly, maybe of all, is barred from ever holding office again,” he said.

Rate of Firearms Seized at Airports Doubled in 2020, TSA Says

Guns seized by TSA.

By Steve Neavling

The TSA revealed Tuesday that the rate of firearms detected at airport security checkpoints doubled in 2020. 

The agency discovered about 10 firearms per million passengers last year, twice the rate of 2019 and “at a significantly higher rate than any other years since the agency’s inception,” TSA said in a news release.

In all, TSA officer detected 3,257 guns on passengers or in their carry-on bags at checkpoints in 2020. About 83% of the firearms were loaded. 

“I commend our officers for their commitment to TSA’s security mission by identifying and stopping these weapons at the TSA checkpoints. Firearms are strictly prohibited onboard planes in the passenger cabin,” Senior Official Performing the Duties of TSA Administrator Darby LaJoye said in a statement. “Bringing a firearm to a TSA security checkpoint poses a serious risk to TSA officer and passenger safety, and doing so may result in significant fines or arrest.”

 Firearms were detected at 234 airports nationwide. The most were discovered at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and Denver International Airport rounded off the top 5. 

Mayorkas Moves Closer to Becoming Confirmed Homeland Security Secretary

Alejandro Mayorkas

By Steve Neavling

Alejandro Mayorkas, President Biden’s nomination to lead the Department of Homeland Security, moved closer to taking the helm. 

The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday advanced his nomination to a full vote in Congress. 

“Our nation is facing historic security challenges right now, from the recent attack on our capital, two major cyber breaches of our federal agencies, and a pandemic that continues to take the lives of thousands of Americans every day,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., said, Roll Call reports. “These are serious challenges, and we need steady, qualified and experienced leaders at DHS.”

The panel approved his nomination with a 7-4 vote. Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah joined Democrats in supporting the nomination. Last week, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, blocked the fast-track confirmation process for Mayorkas, potentially dashing Biden’s hopes for a quick confirmation.

Portman said it’s important to have a confirmed Homeland Security secretary to address numerous potential threats facing the nation. 

“We’ve got the massive cyber security attack that we aren’t talking about much because it seems like everything else has become more important, but that probably is the most significant national security threat we’ve had in this country in years,” Portman said. 

Mayorkas, 61, is poised to become the first immigrant and Hispanic to lead the department. 

Mayorkas served as deputy homeland security secretary from 2013 to 2016 under President Obama. A former U.S. attorney in California, Mayorkas also served as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during Obama’s first term.  

Born in Cuba, Mayorkas and her family arrived as refugees in the 1960s, settling in Southern California. His mother was a Holocaust survivor. Mayorkas graduated from the University of California-Berkeley and earned a law degree from Loyola Law School. 

DOJ: At Least 134 Officers Assaulted During Capitol Siege on Jan. 6

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

U.S. Capitol rioters assaulted and injured at least 134 police officers during the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Justice Department said in a court filing. 

Of those, 81 officers were from the Capitol Police force and 58 from the Washington D.C. Metro Police Department, Newsweek reports.

A police officer also was killed. 

The FBI has arrested more than 100 alleged rioters, and the Justice Department is building a case that alleges some of the insurrectionists had planned and conspired to overthrow the government.