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Calif. FBI Agent Agrees to Plead Guilty to Illegal Access of FBI Records, Court Document Shows

CALIFornia mapBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A veteran California FBI agent who investigated white collar crimes has agreed to plead guilty to illegally accessing FBI files to help an acquaintance collect a debt, according to court records.

A plea agreement filed by the U.S. Attorneys Office in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif.  said that agent Peter H. Norell Jr. accessed the FBI data base to get information to help the acquaintance “and according to Norell’s understanding, other investors.”

The document said that Norell “never intended to and never did initiate a legitimate FBI investigation into” the person who owed money, but he threatened to launch a probe against someone only identified as T.S. ,  if T.S.  did not pay off the debt.

It said he “communicated his threats to initiate an FBI investigation” in multiple phone calls as well as in person when Norell went to T.S.’s home at 6:45 a.m. on Sept. 16, 2005.

The document said that Norell was informed that T.S. paid a portion of the debt to the acquaintance. Part of the agreement was that Norell resign as an FBI agent.

Read Plea Agreement

FBI Impersonator Went as Far As to Hire An Assistant, Authorities Charge

fbi-badgeBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Over the years, many people have impersonated FBI agents, but few have gone as far as Brenna Marie Reilly. She even hired an assistant who worked out of her apartment.

Reilly, 29, of Arlington, Va., now faces a federal indictment in Virginia. She is free but in  her mother’s custody in Holyoke, Mass.,  and has been ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation, court records show.

Authorities alleged that Reilly told neighbors, starting in August 2009, that she was a director of the FBI’s Forensic Division and an assistant director of the FBI., according to an affidavit from FBI agent Kari Alexa Parker.

In November, she offered two people a job as her assistant and asked them to fill out government applications, the affidavit said. One declined the job. The other accepted. The job was to begin Dec. 15.

Read more »

Feds Indict 9 Christian Militia Members on Charges of Conspiring to Kill Law Enforcement Officers

Christian Militia Hutaree patch/from website

Christian Militia Hutaree patch/from website

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire

Nine suspected members of a Christian militia were indicted in Detroit on charges of conspiring to kill law enforcement officers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Monday.

Authorities charged that six Michigan residents, two from Ohio and one from Indiana plotted, according to one plan,  to kill an unidentified law enforcement officer and then kill officers who showed up to the funeral.

The indictment said the militia known as Hutaree considered its enemies to be “state and local law enforcement, who are deemed ‘foot-soldiers’ of the Federal government, Federal law enforcement agencies and employees, participants in the “New World Order” and anyone who does not share in the Hutaree’s beliefs.”

After the Oklahoma bombing in 1995, the spotlight turned to Michigan militias. Convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols had been hanging out at a farmhouse in Decker, Mi. about two hours north of Detroit.  Terry’s brother James Nichols, who was never indicted, ran a farm in Decker and espoused anti-government views.

Monday’s unsealed indictment said that since at least 2008, the Hutaree militia had been conducting military-style training in Lenawee County in Michigan and elsewhere with the purposes of preparing for the impending war with its enemies.

The indictment said the group also discussed a variety of violent acts including “killing a member of law enforcement after a traffic stop, killing a member of law enforcement and his or her family at home, ambushing a member of law enforcement in rural communities, luring a member of law enforcement with a false 911 emergency call and then killing him or her, and killing a member of law enforcement and then attacking the funeral procession with weapons of mass destruction.”

The indictment said the militia obtained information about Improvised Explosive Devices over the Internet.

One of the militia member David Brian Stone told members that a covert reconnaissance exercise was scheduled for April 2010 and “anyone who happened upon the exercise who did not acquiesce to Hutaree demands would be killed,” the indictment said.

“Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation for April which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and of the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time.”

Andrew Arenas, head of the Detroit FBI, said : “This is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society.”

Read Indictment

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Apmn9xMxiZ4

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoLj5pobTF4

FBI Arrests 9th Person in Militia Case Monday Night (Detroit News)

Low-Key Brooklyn U.S. Atty. Benton Campbell Could Be Replaced Soon By Obama Appointee

In a town not known for its subtleties,  Brooklyn’s U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell is known as a low key, a nice guy.  He’ll be stepping down soon.
U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell/doj photo

U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell/doj photo

By A. G. SULZBERGER
New York Times

NEW YORK — It should have been the culmination of a distinguished prosecutorial career.

Benton J. Campbell, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was making a rare public appearance in Washington to announce the guilty plea from the man at the center of the terrorist plot to detonate explosives on subways in New York.

He stood by silently as Attorney General Eric H. Holder

Jr. did most of the talking, fleshing out the details of the case he described as one of the most serious threats to the nation since Sept. 11, 2001.

Then, responding to a reporter’s question, Mr. Holder turned to Mr. Campbell, whose office had secured the conviction, and addressed him by name — the wrong name.

”I’ll let Ben Wagner answer that question,” Mr. Holder said.

To read full story click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Did Justice Dept. Railroad Ex-FBI & CIA Agent Nada Prouty?

Fed Agents Going Undercover on Social Networks like Facebook

istock illustration

istock illustration

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department document asks the simple question: Why Go Undercover on Facebook, MySpace, etc.?

Then it goes on to explain: “Communicate with suspects/targets” … “gain access to non-public info” … “map social relationships/networks.”

The document, part of a Justice Department PowerPoint presentation, shows how some federal and local law enforcement agents are quietly creating fictitious accounts on social networks like Facebook and MySpace to get dirt on suspected criminals. The presentation recently surfaced in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court.

Some federal and local law enforcement agents are quietly creating fictitious accounts on social networks like Facebook and MySpace to get dirt on suspected criminals

“This is just the way people meet these days — electronically,” James Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told AOL News. “It wouldn’t be any different than calling someone on the phone, say, in an undercover capacity. If we can meet them on Facebook by creating a fictitious account, that’s great. ”

Even so, the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco filed the lawsuit in December against about a half a dozen federal agencies to create a public dialogue on the matter and make sure agencies have guidelines for agents, according to Marcia Hofmann, a senior staff attorney for the foundation. The Justice Department, Homeland Security, Treasury, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are included in the suit.

facebook-logo

Some agencies don’t readily appear to have guidelines and some have offered to produce them in coming months to satisfy the demands in the lawsuit, according to Hofmann.

“This on one hand is a very clever use of these tools, but it makes you wonder when enterprising agents come up with these ideas, what is appropriate and what is not,” she said. “I don’t want to speculate as to what they do and they don’t do. I do think there should be a public debate whether it’s ethically sound or not. There should be some transparency.”

Initially, social networks like MySpace, which first surfaced in 2003, and Facebook, which launched in 2004, and Twitter which arrived in 2006, were simply for hip high school and college-aged kids. As social media’s popularity soared, law enforcement began to realize that there was more to these networks than idle gossip and photos of cats, dogs, proms and beer parties.

Now, some federal agents privately talk, almost in amazement, about how much information is available on social networks and how careless criminals are. They say some information can be obtained without even going undercover.

In fact, they say some criminals — and noncriminals as well — fail to select the right security settings to block non-friends from seeing photos and other personal information on sites like Facebook. And besides, anyone can see a person’s friend list without “friending” the person.

twitter4

“It’s not like we have to dig very deep,” said one federal agent who has not created fictitious accounts but knows of others who have. “Facebook is the best. They videotape themselves. They have pictures with guns, posing with gang members. There’s addresses of homes. We tend to go after what’s there.”

Another federal agent says he’s amazed how freely some criminals post information on social networks.

“I’m surprised by the recklessness of it,” the agent said. “I would think they would be smarter. That’s why we only catch the stupid ones. ”

Still, even before the recent documents surfaced publicly about fictitious accounts, some federal law enforcement agencies readily admitted to being aware of criminals using the social networks.

On Jan. 27, for example, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles issued a press release about the indictment of 20 suspected members of the Riverside Street Gang with ties to the Mexican Mafia. The release noted that the members use “MySpace.com to communicate about gang business, and they use rap music videos and recordings to deliver a message of violence and intimidation.”

myspace-images3

DEA Agent Sarah Pullen of the Los Angeles office said of the probe, “Any time you have visual evidence that is available, it is extremely helpful in conducting an investigation. It would be the same as a piece of mail or a photo; anything that shows evidence of a crime.”

In Washington, federal law enforcement agencies have responded to the issue of agents creating fictitious undercover accounts with carefully worded responses.

“The Department of Justice and our agents follow applicable laws, regulations and internal guidelines for investigations, regardless of whether those investigations occur online or on the street,” Laura Sweeney, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement to AOL News.

“Just as we’ve done successfully in identifying and prosecuting child predators online, we will continue to use publicly available information individuals post online about their illegal activities, or false statements to law enforcement officials, in our investigations. To do otherwise would be negligence on our part,” Sweeney said.

Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman, noted, “Simply said, law enforcement needs to be able to constantly adapt to the changing world around them while maintaining its ability to use all lawful and available tools at its disposal to gather potential leads to solve crimes.”

Interestingly, the Internal Revenue Service provided a document in the San Francisco lawsuit that states employee guidelines for the Internet. “You cannot obtain information from websites by registering … fictitious identities,” the document said.

“I think it’s interesting the IRS has drawn the line, and the Justice Department has not,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Hofmann said.

There has been limited public outcry about the prospects of agents creating undercover accounts since the Justice Department document surfaced.

But Hofmann mentioned the La Crosse, Wis., police department, which reportedly created a fake Facebook page using an attractive, blond-haired woman to lure students and find out about underage drinking. The department did not return a call for comment.

The La Crosse Tribune reported in November that Adam Bauer, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse sophomore, had nearly 400 friends on Facebook and added the attractive woman. Shortly after, police had Facebook photos of him drinking, and he was fined $227.

After his court appearance in November, Bauer told the paper, “I just can’t believe it. I feel like I’m in a science fiction movie, like they are always watching. When does it end?”

Stomach Turner: FBI Investigating Ex-Official of Impovervished Detroit School District For Allegedly Diverting $57 Million

Detroit_Public_Schools_Welcome_CenterBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In Detroit, where the unemployment is very very high, and the city suffers from serious deficits, comes the latest news about the ailing school district that is guaranteed to turn stomachs.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the FBI is looking into a former department chief at Detroit Public Schools and his assistant who allegedly “used secret offices and their own computer system to improperly divert more than $57 million in school funds to vendors who provided little, if anything, in return, according to sworn records reviewed by the Free Press.”

The documents are part of a Wayne County Circuit Court lawsuit filed by the school district against Stephen Hill of Detroit, who was director of the district’s risk management from 2001-05, the Free Press reported.

The suit alleges — Hill received luxury vehicles and other kickbacks. The paper reported that vendors who benefited from the corruption included friends, associates and relatives of Hill or his assistant Christina Polk-Osumah of Detroit, the paper reported.

The paper notes that the lawsuit alleges that when Hill left in 2005 the District threw him a $40,000 “champagne-and-tenderloin farewell bash.”

That’s the least the district could have done to honor him for his services.

To read full story click here.

OTHER WEEKEND STORIES

African-American Community Rallies and Asks for Answers in FBI Shooting of Detroit Imam (Detroit Free Press)

President’s Picks to Run TSA Keep Imploding After Running into Controversies

tsa_logoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The attempted bombing on Christmas Day in Detroit was a reminder of the importance of airport security and the need for someone to lead the Transportation Security Administration under the Obama administration.

Problem is, the last two Presidential nominees have imploded on the administration.

Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow Jr. reported that the latest pick, Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert A. Harding, withcrew his name on Friday.

The paper reported that Harding had become “a federal contractor in 2001 after serving at the highest levels of military intelligence” and withdrew his name after being repeatedly question about his contract activities and “The Washington Post raised questions with the White House on Friday about his disabilities status.”

The Post reported that the “firm owned by the decorated general who withdrew his nomination to lead the Transportation Security Administration had received a consulting contract worth almost $100 million from the Army after certifying he was a “service disabled veteran,” according to documents and interviews with government officials.”

The White House had hoped Harding would solve its dilemma when the last nominee, ex-FBI agent Erroll Southers withdrew after controversy surfaced about him giving conflicting accounts to Congress about him accessing a federal data base as an FBI agent to get info about his ex-wife’s lover more two decades ago.

To read more click here.