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Dept. of Homeland Security to Kill Controversial Spy Satellite Program

Some say we’re losing a tool in the war on terrorism. Civil liberty groups say it was a violation of our privacy. Apparently the latter won out.

homeland-security-logo

By SIOBHAN GORMAN
The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to kill a controversial Bush administration spy satellite program at the Department of Homeland Security, according to officials familiar with the decision.

The program came under fire from its inception two years ago. Democratic lawmakers said it would lead to domestic spying.

The program would have provided federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery – but no eavesdropping capabilities- to assist with emergency response and other domestic-security needs, such as identifying where ports or border areas are vulnerable to terrorism.

For Full Story

N.J. Nominee for U.S. Atty. Paul Fishman Refuses to Disclose Full Client List

This raises an interesting dilemma. Yes, we have a right to know as much about a U.S. Attorney candidate as possible. And yes, clients who are targets of grand juries have a right to privacy. What to do? We assume we can trust nominees like Fishman to recuse themselves in instances where there’s a conflict of interest. On the other hand, maybe we should just avoid appointing U.S. Attorneys who are criminal lawyers and have disclosure issues.

Paul Fishman for N.J. U.S. Atty.

Paul Fishman for N.J. U.S. Atty.

By Jim McElhatton
Washington Times
WASHINGTON — The criminal defense lawyer nominated by President Obama to be the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey is declining to identify more than half of his private clients on government forms designed to help the public guard against potential conflicts of interests.

Paul J. Fishman, nominated to serve as the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, is citing the privacy interests of the clients – an exemption that is permitted under federal ethics laws, but that leaves prosecutors on an honor system to police their own conflicts, ethics watchdogs say.

Mr. Fishman provided the names of 29 clients on the government disclosure form, including a convicted former New Jersey municipal official, a health care company and the former girlfriend of New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

But he withheld the names of “approximately 37 confidential clients,[“] saying they cannot be named because they are involved in grand jury or other secret investigations.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Justice Dept. Wants Charges Dropped Against Mexican; Judge Chastises Prosecutors for Failing to Turn Over Evidence Quickly to Defense

The judge in this case, Emmet G. Sullivan, who presided over the Ted Stevens case, has a low tolerance in instances where the prosecution fails to share evidence with the defense — or do it in a timely manner. In this instance, Sullivan once again was not happy with the Justice Department.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan/court photo

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan/court photo

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department asked a federal judge yesterday to toss drug charges against a Chinese-born Mexican millionaire, saying that U.S. prosecutors had run into “evidentiary concerns” and that Mexico would be a better place to try him.

The request concerns Zhenli Ye Gon, who was arrested in July 2007 and was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District on charges of aiding and abetting a conspiracy to make methamphetamine that would be sold in the United States.

The charges came several months after a raid of his Mexico City mansion, where Mexican authorities seized $207 million in cash, most of it in $100 bills. Gon, who fled Mexico before the raid, was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration while eating dinner at a bistro in Wheaton with a female acquaintance.

For Full Story

Read Government Motion to Dismiss

Mexican Drug Cartels Hire American Teens as Killers

mexico-map21The drug trade has long provided dangerous employment and riches for Americans teens seeking the good life. We hear so often of that arrangement in urban areas. Now it’s happening with American teens and Mexican drug cartels.

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
New York Times
LAREDO, Tex. — When he was finally caught, Rosalio Reta told detectives here that he had felt a thrill each time he killed. It was like being Superman or James Bond, he said.

”I like what I do,” he told the police in a videotaped confession. ”I don’t deny it.”

Mr. Reta was 13 when he was recruited by the Zetas, the infamous assassins of the Gulf Cartel, law enforcement officials say. He was one of a group of American teenagers from the impoverished streets of Laredo who was lured into the drug wars across the Rio Grande in Mexico with promises of high pay, fancy cars and sexy women.

After a short apprenticeship, the young men lived in an expensive house in Texas, available to kill whenever called on. The Gulf Cartel was engaged in a turf war with the Sinaloa Cartel over the Interstate 35 corridor, the north-south highway that connects Laredo to Dallas and beyond, and is, according to law enforcement officials, one of the most important arteries for drug smuggling in the Americas.

The young men all paid a heavy price. Jesus Gonzalez III was beaten and knifed to death in a Mexican jail at 23. Mr. Reta, now 19, and his boyhood friend, Gabriel Cardona, 22, are serving what amounts to life sentences in prisons in the United States.

For Full Story

Fed Judge in William J. Jefferson Trial Expresses Frustration at Pace

William J. Jefferson

William J. Jefferson

By Rachel Leven
ticklethewire.com
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The federal judge in the public corruption trial of ex-Rep. William J. Jefferson chided the government Monday, saying it needed to do a better job focusing its case.

“You, the government, need to focus sharply this case,” said  U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.

Ellis also criticized the defense for some of its line of  questioning during cross examination of a key government witness and remarked:

“If this case lasts six weeks it will certainly be contrary to my intentions.”

The judge’s remarks came in frustration to the pace of the trial, which is expected to last anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. Jefferson, 62,  faces 16 public corruption counts including taking bribes and bribing a foreign official.

On Monday, the defense spent time questioning  a government’s key witness Vernon L. Jackson, the president of iGate, a Kentucky company that Jefferson had a financial interest in, and tried to promote in Africa. Jackson is serving a 7 year and 3 month sentence for bribing Jefferson.

Jackson has offered his opinions on the stand, saying his  payments to Jefferson and his family were bribes. But Judge Ellis said it was irrelevant whether any of the witnesses  considered their acts bribes  He said it essentially came down to whether the acts fit the bribery statutes.

Trial resumed  this afternoon with the defense continuing its cross examination of Vernon Jackson.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI Looking into More Allegations Involving Rep. John Conyer’s Wife

Council Member Monica Conyers is not only the subject of public corruption probe involving a sludge hauling contract, but she’s also the target of other suspected payoffs including ones from a Detroit pawnshop.

Monica Conyers/council photo

Monica Conyers/council photo

By Leonard M. Flemming, Paul Egan and Charlie LeDuff
Detroit News
DETROIT — Federal agents are investigating allegations that Councilwoman Monica Conyers received thousands of dollars in jewelry from a pawn shop whose owner urged the council to ease off on plans to increase regulation of his business, people familiar with a City Hall corruption investigation told The Detroit News.

One estimate pegged the value of the jewelry from Zeidman’s Jewelry and Loan at about $40,000, sources said.

Agents also are investigating allegations that Conyers was to receive payment for favorable consideration of an investment proposal or proposals submitted to the General Retirement System, where Conyers was a trustee, by Detroit businessman Melvin Washington and his Phoenix Group companies, sources said.

Conyers, who is the wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, has yet to respond to federal prosecutors’ offer to plead guilty to a five-year bribery-related felony charge, the sources said, adding that an indictment could be looming. Conyers doesn’t want to plead to anything more than a misdemeanor, they said.

For Full Story

Fed Judge Tells Prosecutors to Put Up or Shut Up in Gotti Mob Case

John Gotti Jr./youtube
John Gotti Jr./youtube

There’s still a big public fascination with the Gotti family. But the judge isn’t so fascinated to the point that he’s willing to move forward without more evidence on the table.

By Thomas Zambito
New York Daily News
NEW YORK –A Manhattan judge is giving John A. (Junior) Gotti’s prosecutors a week to put up or shut up.

During a pre-trial hearing Wednesday, Federal Judge Kevin Castel quizzed Assistant U.S. Attorney Elie Honig on why he hasn’t offered details of crimes the mob scion allegedly committed in the five years before his 2008 indictment.

“Is that it?” Castel prodded the prosecutor.

The feds say that during the 1980s and early 1990s, the Dapper Don’s kid had a hand in three gangland slayings and trafficked in drugs.

For Full Story

Jefferson’s Strategy: Congressman Acted As Private Citizen and Didn’t Always Tell the Truth

The second week of trial begins in the Jefferson trial. Jefferson is claiming that his business dealings were private. So far, the prosecution has presented some pretty convincing evidence that Jefferson was acting in his official capacity. In any event, with 16 counts, Jefferson has an uphill battle.

By Bruce Alpert
New Orlean Times-Picayune
ALEXANDRIA, VA. — As William Jefferson’s corruption trial moves into its second week of testimony, the former New Orleans congressman’s defense strategy is coming into focus.

Less clear is whether Judge T.S. Ellis III will allow Jefferson’s defense team to present all of its arguments and evidence directly to the 12-member jury.

In his opening statement, Jefferson’s attorney Robert Trout left no doubt about the key element of the congressman’s defense against charges that he demanded and, in some cases, accepted bribes to aid business ventures in Western Africa.

The defense will argue that all the instances cited by the government — including many that the defense says are false or exaggerated — involved private business deals, not official acts, and therefore are not covered by the federal bribery statute.

But Trout also wants to play excerpts of secretly recorded conversations that he said show Jefferson didn’t always tell the truth during conversations with Lori Mody, the Virginia businesswoman who wore a wire for the FBI.

For Full Story

William Jefferson Denies Taking Bribes in Old Campaign Ad

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUwmtzms0MI