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Atty. Gen. Holder Says Justice Dept. Won’t Go After Pot Dispensaries

Unlike the Bush administration, A.G. Eric Holder says the Justice Department won’t go after the places that dispense marijuana legally. It makes sense. There’s higher priorities like the Mexican drug wars, which are starting to wreak havoc on our nation.

marijuana-umledu1

By Josh Meyer and Scott Glover
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that the Justice Department has no plans to prosecute pot dispensaries that are operating legally under state laws in California and a dozen other states — a development that medical marijuana advocates and civil libertarians hailed as a sweeping change in federal drug policy.

In recent months, Obama administration officials have indicated that they planned to take a hands-off approach to such clinics, but Holder’s comments — made at a wide-ranging briefing with reporters — offered the most detailed explanation to date of the changing priorities toward the controversial prosecutions.

The Bush administration targeted medical marijuana distributors even in states that had passed laws allowing use of the drug for medical purposes by cancer patients, those dealing with chronic pain or other serious ailments. Holder said the priority of the new administration is to go after egregious offenders operating in violation of both federal and state law, such as those being used as fronts for drug dealers.

“Those are the organizations, the people, that we will target,” the attorney general said.

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Ex-FBI Agent Convicted in Botched Calif. Home Invasion

calif-map

Wednesday was not a banner day for the FBI. First a N.Y. FBI agent was arrested for accessing confidential information and sharing it with an informant. And then this: an ex-FBI agent convicted in a botched home invasion.

By My-Thuan Tran
Los Angeles Times

A former FBI agent who meticulously planned to rob an Orange County residence that he thought was a drug house was convicted in federal court in Santa Ana on Wednesday on charges related to the botched home-invasion robbery.

The “stash house” robbery that lured Vo Duong Tran all the way from New Orleans and for which he was equipped with bulletproof vests, assault rifles and 630 rounds of ammunition was actually nothing more than pure invention by federal agents trying to snare their ex-colleague.

Tran, 41, had conspired with a supposed accomplice to commit armed robbery in Orange County and to develop a crew of criminal associates to commit violent crimes, jurors in the federal case found. The accomplice told him about the Fountain Valley drug house, said to contain $500,000 in cash.

In reality, the accomplice turned out to be an FBI informant who was secretly recording conversations with Tran as part of the sting operation. Prosecutors played the tapes during the four-week trial.

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The Joy of the Internet is Causing Big Headaches for the Court System

google

The Internet and the high-tech cell phones may be some of the greatest inventions of our times. But those inventions causing some major headaches in the court system. How can the courts assure these things don’t sabotage our system? Good question.


By JOHN SCHWARTZ
New York Times

Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge’s instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.

Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, a waste of eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers.

“We were stunned,” said a defense lawyer, Peter Raben, who was told by the jury that he had been on the verge of winning the case. “It’s the first time modern technology struck us in that fashion, and it hit us right over the head.”

It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.
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Islamic Group Threatens to Cut Ties to FBI

istock_000007698493xsmallBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON –– The sometimes bumpy ties between the FBI and the U.S. Muslim communities could get bumpier.

The American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) , a coalition of major U.S. Muslim groups, announced Tuesday that it was considering suspending “outreach relations with the FBI” as a result of the FBI targeting American mosques and Muslim groups.

The move comes several months after the FBI cut off formal ties to the prominent group CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations),  citing its links to Hamas. CAIR is one of several organizations that make up AMT, according to the AMT website.

As part of its effort to patch up the riff, CAIR late last month held an open house dinner in Minneapolis at a local mosque and extended an invitation to FBI director Robert Mueller III, who did not attend.

In response to Tuesdays’ development, FBI spokesman John Miller issued a statement:
“Limiting honest dialogue, especially when complex issues are on the table, is generally not an effective advocacy strategy. The FBI has continued our outreach efforts, across the board, with a number of concerned groups and where we agree-or disagree – most have concluded the best results are achieved through continued conversation. We believe that to be true.”

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Bernie Ripoff’s Accountant Charged with Securities Fraud

Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff

Bernie Ripoff’s House of Cards is starting to tumble. It’s hard to believe his wife Ruth was a total innocent. And who knows who else was involved. Madoff is probably willing to dish if the feds cut him a break or at least let him out of jail until sentencing. Let’s see what happens.

By Thomas Zambito
New York Daily News
NEW YORK — David Friehling, a longtime accountant for Bernie Madoff, was charged with securities fraud and surrendered to the FBI.

The accountant for mega-thief Bernard Madoff surrendered Wednesday to the FBI on charges he dispensed years of phony audits and bogus filings as the Ponzi schemer looted thousands of clients.

David Friehling, a CPA with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, acted as a “rubber stamp” on paperwork sent along by Madoff – and even invested with the crooked financier.

“Mr. Friehling’s deception helped foster the illusion that Mr. Madoff legitimately invested his clients’ money,” said acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin.

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Breaking News: N.Y. FBI Agent Charged With Sharing Confidential Info

new-york-mapFor the second time in about four months, a New York FBI agent has been charged criminally. In December, FBI agent Mark Rossini was charged with illegally accessing FBI data bases for personal use.

By The Associated Press
NEW YORK — An FBI agent assigned to the New York office has been arrested on charges he shared confidential information with an informant.

William H. Shirk III is charged in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.

The complaint alleges the 37-year-old Shirk warned the informant he was being investigated for drug trafficking. The information was from a confidential FBI database.

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Read Detailed Press Release

THE FBI IS TWEETING

twitter2By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON – When FBI agents recently tracked down suspected financial scammer  R. Allen Stanford in Richmond, Va., the press office at headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue quickly tweeted out a blurb on Twitter to notify the media.

“Actually, ” says FBI spokesman Richard Kolko, “the Wall Street Journal broke it two minutes before I did.”

Twitter. Tweeting. This is no longer J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

Twitter, once a mysterious, free, cutting edge Internet venue for the young, has gone main stream. Very main stream . Sorry kids. Maybe it’s time to find the next hip playground on the Internet.

The social network with the silly name is slowly generating interest in law enforcement circles like the FBI , which opened a Twitter account about two months ago under the name FBIPressOffice. The office said it is also exploring the use of other social networks.

Kolko said the agency is “still getting use to it”, but it’s already sent out more than 415 tweets including press releases with links , notices of missing children or wanted fugitives and breaking news.

A recent press release read: “Iranian Man, company charged with scheme to supply sensitive technology to Iran”. The same day the office put out a notice about a child molester wanted since 2003: “The FBI is still looking for GRANT LAVELLE HUDSON, III.”

So far more than 1,141 people have signed up as “followers”, many of them in law enforcement and the media.
“It goes up every day,” Kolko said.

Twitter, founded in 2006 in San Francisco, allows users to send out text- based “tweets” that are 140 characters or less to people who have signed up to the sender’s account. The social network continues to grow in popularity, but it still ranks behind Facebook, which is number one worldwide, and MySpace, which is number two, according to Compete.com.

But Twitter is gaining traction in federal law enforcement circles including at the Transportation Security Administration, said Chris Battle, managing partner of the Adfero Group Homeland Security Practice, a Washington public relations firm. Battle has written about social communication networks on his company blog Security DeBrief.

“I think it’s an important audience,” said Battle, a former official at Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the DEA. “Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or a specialty niche site like PoliceLink.com , you have a dedicated network of people who care about an issue. When you care about targeting an audience, it doesn’t get any more targeted than this.”

Still, some agencies have been slow to come around, particularly ones that were already a little reluctant to communicate with the public in the more traditional ways, let alone with these cutting-edge communication tools, Battle said.

“Within law enforcement we have quite a ways to go,” he said. ” There’s a bit of a learning curve. Some of the law enforcement agencies and national security organizations need to catch up with the social media.”

Kolko said the biggest benefit of the social network will be when there’s a major breaking story or big crisis and the media blitzes the FBI press office with calls.
“It will have a great application in the event of a crisis,” Kolko said. ” If some major crisis happens, the phones ring off the hook and every reporter is asking the same exact questions. It can take 30 seconds to send the information on Twitter that we’re going to be giving those people.”

Besides press releases and breaking news blurbs, Kolko says he likes to put up information about child molesters and other wanted fugitives.

“It reminds people that we’re still looking,” he said.

Twitter doesn’t appear to be the last stop.

Kolko said the FBI is exploring other venues.
“We’re looking at Facebook and Youtube,” he said. ” Hopefully that’s in the near future.”

Justice Department to Review Criminal Case Against Ex-Justice Civil Rights Division Head Bradley Schlozman

Bradley Scholzman

Bradley Schlozman

One question is: How much resources and how much resolve does the Holder Justice Department have to continue investigating the question marks in the Bush era? This case may test that question.

By Justin Elliott
TPMMuckraker

The Bradley Schlozman saga might have some life left in it, yet.

The Justice Department is reviewing a decision made earlier this year under the Bush Administration not to charge Schlozman, the former official who was found by an Inspector General report to have made false statements to the Senate about whether he considered political affiliations in hiring.

A DOJ spokesman told TPMmuckraker today the Schlozman case is “under review,” confirming that Attorney General Eric Holder is acting on a promise he made during his confirmation hearings to take another look at the case.

An IG report released in January found Schlozman broke federal law by considering ideological affiliations in hiring at the department’s Civil Rights Division. The report also found Schlozman falsely denied he considered politics in hiring in sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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