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NY Times Editorial: A Reminder to the FBI

spy graphicBy The New York Times
Editorial Page

The day after Thanksgiving, 2002, was a slow day in the Pittsburgh office of the F.B.I., so a supervisor sent a special agent to a rally against the threatened war in Iraq to look for any terrorism suspects who might be there, just to ”see what they are doing.”

The peace rally was sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center, which has opposed violence and armed conflict since the days of Vietnam, and consisted largely of people distributing leaflets.

There was not the slightest indication that there were any terrorists there or even the hint of a connection to terrorism. Nonetheless, the agent kept the leafleteers under surveillance and even took pictures.

It sounds like the paranoid approach to dissent of J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I., but this and other abuses took place during the Bush administration. A report on the subject by the Justice Department’s inspector general is a reminder of how easily civil liberties can be cast aside during suspicious frenzies, such as that unleashed after the 9/11 terror attacks.

To read more click here.

Obama Administration Wants to Keep Better Tabs on Internet and Bank Transfers

internet-photoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is making moves to try and get a better handle on the activities of terrorists.

Charlie Savage of the The New York Times reports that federal law enforcement and national security officials plan next year to seek new regulations from Congress that would allow agencies to get information on the Internet with a wiretap order.

The Times reports that agencies fear “their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is ‘going dark’ as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.”

The Times reports that the administration would ask Congress to change laws so that they could get info from encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry and social networks like Facebook and Skype.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima reports that the Obama administration wants to require all U.S. banks to report all electronic money orders in and out of the country to keep better tabs on terrorist financing and money laundering.

Currently, banks are required to report transactions that exceed $10,000. The new regulations would require all transfers to be reported regardless of size, the Post reports.

To read full NY Times story click here.

To read full Washington Post story click here.

FBI’s Troubled Computer Project to Go In House

fbi logo largeBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –– The FBI is making a new move to try and bring its troubled computer project called the “Sentinel” under control, according to the Washington Post’s Capital Business report. The program has been plagued by endless glitches.

The paper reports that the FBI has decided to bring the project in house, with its IT division taking over from contractor, Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin. The system has been designed to replace the FBI’s paper-based system for criminal investigation records.

The paper reports that the project is expected to go quicker and come within the $451 million budget. Lockheed Martin will be retained as a subject matter expert, the paper reported.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

U.S. Border Inspector Charged With Taking $50,000-plus to Let Drug Vehicles Pass

US Mexican border
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In the Mexican-U.S. drug war, money still corrupts on both sides of the border.

The latest: A U.S. border inspector was charged Friday with taking more than $50,000 to let drug-filled vehicles from Mexico pass through his lane, the Associated Press reported.

Authorities charged that Oscar Osbaldo Ortiz Martinez,30, a Customs and Border Protection officer since 2008, allegedly took $22,000 in June for one car to pass through and $30,000 on Monday in downtown Caliexico, about 120 east of San Diego, AP reported.

He is charged with bribery, conspiracy and attempting to import cocaine and methamphetamine.

Justice Lawyer Criticizes Agency for Failing to Protect White Voters

blackpantherptylogoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In a controversy that won’t seem to go away for the Obama administration, a veteran Justice Department lawyer on Friday accused his agency of being unwilling to go after racial discrimination cases on behalf of white voters, the Washington Post reported.

Christopher Coate testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights relating to the department’s failure to aggressively pursue a case against the New Black Panther Party, which was accused of intimidating some whites from voting at the polls in 2008 in Philly. One member was carrying a night stick, Post reported.

Coates, former head of the voting section that brought the case, criticized the department’s “gutting” of the case for “irrational reasons”, the Post reported. He transferred to the U.S. Attorney’s in South Carolina in January and has been given whistleblower status.

“I had people who told me point-blank that [they] didn’t come to the voting rights section to sue African American people,” Coates testified. “When you are paid by the taxpayer, that is totally indefensible.”

To read more click here.

Weekend Series on Crime: The Detroit Mob

Drug Dealer Whose Wife Killed Pitts. FBI Agent Gets 25 Years

Slain FBI Agent Sam Hicks/fbi photo

Slain FBI Agent Sam Hicks/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The convicted drug dealer whose wife shot and killed a Pittsburgh FBI agent in 2008 during a raid at their home was sentenced Friday in federal court to 25 years in prison, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The paper reported that Robert Korbe, who pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, gun and insurance fraud charges, faced a mandatory 20-year term, but could have gotten life.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Troy Rivetti said Korbe threatened witnesses in his case from jail even after pleading guilty, the paper reported.

Law enforcement agents raided his home in November 2008. Korbe ran in the basement to get rid of cocaine and his wife Christina opened fire from upstairs and shot and killed FBI agent Sam Hicks, the paper reported. She faces charges in the shooting.

Korbe reportedly laughed when learning that the agent had been shot.

More TSA Workers to Get “Secret” Clearance

John Pistole/dhs photo

John Pistole/dhs photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration, which protects our airports, will be giving more employees secret clearances so they’ll have more access to intelligence, CNN reports.

CNN reports that the number of employees with “secret” clearances will go to 10,000 or one sixth of the agency’s workforce.

TSA Administrator John Pistole, formerly the number two person at the FBI, said the access will give frontline workers more information when trying to stop terrorists, CNN reported.

Pistole, who spoke before a House Homeland Security Subcommittee this week, said “a key lesson I took from my 26 years at the FBI is that one of the best tools we possess in our effort to combat terrorism is accurate and timely intelligence. Our enemies constantly evolve their methods and their tools…and it’s our job to stay ahead of them.”