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Las Vegas Man Livid; Says FBI Ignored 2008 Tip About Mobster Whitey Bulger

whdh/channel 7

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The James “Whitey” Bulger story ain’t going away any time soon.

The latest: A Las Vegas man is livid. The Boston Herald reports that the man claims the FBI ignored his tip in 2008 that he spotted Bulger on the Santa Monica Pier and alerted “America’s Most Wanted.”

“The FBI should at least come out and say that they did get a call three years ago. If they had called me back, they would have struck gold. But you know how they play their games, the feds. I guess this whole hunt for Whitey Bulger was a game,’’ Keith Messina told the Herald. “Now they are saying someone in Iceland found Whitey? Who is that person? I found Whitey three years ago.”

“I didn’t make the call for the reward,” Messina insisted. “I just wanted the guy caught. But now the FBI is lying and saying the reward is going to Iceland. I saw the guy. I did the right thing and called. I left my name and number. I should be at least entitled to something.’’

The Herald reported that Messina, 45, was vacationing with his wife, Tonya, and their three children in June 2008.

Messina had seen America’s Most Wanted, which had featured Bulger.

The Herald reported that Messina was on a “bench near the Third Street Promenade when he spotted an elderly man wearing a hat and sunglasses, no shirt, dark shorts, and reading a book. Messina, a “huge” “America’s Most Wanted” fan, thought of Whitey.”

“His suspicion became stronger when the man, who had a crucifix on a gold chain, began chatting with a passer-by wearing a Boston Celtics [team stats] shirt,” the Herald reported.

“I looked at the guy and thought, ‘That looks like Bulger,’ but then I said to my wife, ‘No way.’ I kept watching him, and I really started thinking it was him but I was positive when I saw him talking to the guy from Boston and asked about Newbury Street — I knew it.”

FBI Returns Stolen Ancient Artifacts to Iraqis

Some of the artifacts returned/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Terracotta plaques and other ancient artifacts stolen in Iraq by defense contractors in 2004 were returned Thursday by the FBI to the Iraqi government in a ceremony at the Iraqi Cultural Center in Washington.

The FBI said it seized the invaluable items during a 2006 investigation.

The items included two pottery dishes, four vases, an oil lamp, three small statues, and the seven terracotta relief plaques, the FBI said. They ranged in age from 2,500 to 4,000 years old—from the Old Babylonian period to the Neo-Assyrian or Neo-Babylon periods.

“These artifacts are truly invaluable,” said Ron Hosko, special agent in charge of the Criminal Division in the Washington Field Office. “The FBI is pleased to be able to return them to their rightful owner.”

The FBI said the artifacts—some small enough to be held in the palm of a hand — were seized during a public corruption investigation conducted by the FBI’s International Contract Corruption Task Force, a multi-agency task force tasked with stop fraud and corruption related to U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere overseas.

The FBI said the artifacts were stolen by Department of Defense contractors who were traveling through the Babylon region of Iraq.

Investigators discovered that contractors collected the items and used them as gifts and bribes or sold them to other contractors who then smuggled them into the United States, the FBI said. Two of the contractors were sentenced to prison for their roles in the fraud scheme.

“Working abroad does not entitle anyone to remove historic artifacts and treat them as mementos for illegal sale,” Hosko said.

The FBI Supervisor Who Really Wanted Bulger; Didn’t Trust Bulger as Informant

Whitey Bulger

By DEBORAH BECKER and LISA TOBIN
WBUR Radio

BOSTON — When Bob Fitzpatrick was brought in as second-in-command of the Boston FBI office back in the early 1980s, it didn’t take him long to figure out something wasn’t right.

“It was almost immediate upon my arrival,” he said.

It would be 20 more years before one of Fitzpatrick’s agents, John Connolly, would be convicted of corruption stemming from his relationship with alleged Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, who was working as an FBI informant at the time.

But for Fitzpatrick, it became appallingly clear the first time he went out to do an assessment on Bulger with Connolly and his supervisor, John Morris. Twenty years later, Morris, too, would confess to corruption.

To read the full story and interview click here.

LISTEN Now to radio interview

Column: Ex-Fed Drug Prosecutor Says He’s Found a Book by Drug Policy Wonks Worth Reading

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

How many books have you read recently that actually changed your thinking on opinions you have held near and dear for decades?

Not many, I wager. In my case, damn few. Like most people I read for entertainment, education, reinforcement, seldom to challenge firmly held views.

As a three-decade drug prosecutor, I admit to some biases and assumptions, which place me among the anti-drug ranter ranks.

Not an “Okie from Muskogee” (Merle Haggard 1969) ranter, but one who is nevertheless skeptical of policy wonks, social “scientists,” and any “expert” who claims to have the answer to the cluster you-know-what which drug use, trafficking, and enforcement have been for the last 80 years in this country.

The book “Drugs and Drug Policy; What Everyone Needs to Know” by Mark A.R. Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins and Angela Hawken (don’t let the deadly title scare you off) challenged some of my views and probably some of those of the readers of this paper. I haven’t converted to a legalization advocate or anything. Nor are the authors of this book.

But they do ask and try to answer some tough questions that permeate this confusingly complex subject. Or else they admit that the question is presently unanswerable.

The book avoids the vocabulary employed by experts in the field that is intended to demonstrate that their academic expertise puts them on a higher plain than the rest of us.

Even technical terms like capture rates and demand elasticity are deciphered in plain English sufficiently to make the point.

Kleiman, a professor of Public Policy at UCLA,   and his two partners, don’t claim to have all the answers or that progress will be easy. But they do ask the right questions, and their answers and discussions can benefit anyone connected to the subject—users and enforcers, policy makers and implementers, innocent bystanders and citizens.

Some of their suggestions do not pass the squirm factor, some seem impractical, others unlikely to ever claim a consensus. But a good number seem worth serious consideration and debate, including a few that concern law enforcement. Here are a couple:

1. Focus enforcement, especially the sanction of longer sentences, on traffickers who use violence and destruction, menace neighborhoods, and cause collateral damage to others. Conduct, not drug volume, should drive enforcement. Dealers not in these categories should be subject to routine attention and sanctions.

2. Eliminate long-delayed punishments for drug dealers like ineligibility for public housing, educational loans, and the like. These serve only retribution and make it more difficult for those who want to join the mainstream.

3. Reduce the number of dealers in prison from the present half million. Reducing sentences for non-violent, run-of-the-mill dealers would have no effect on drug supply and would free up more resources to target more culpable dealers. Plus reduce the pressure on governments to transfer education dollars to prisons.

Drugs and Drug Policy proposes over a dozen other suggestions in areas like treatment, health care, international supply control, harm reduction programs, alcohol and cigarette taxes, consumer marijuana cultivation, and a bunch more.

There will be the temptation for policymakers to applaud the ones they already agree with and reject the others. As if the status quo is so rosy we can’t afford some fresh thought on the subject.

Not all wonks are created equal. These three are worth reading with an open mind.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex-U.S. Atty. Who Indicted Bulger in 1995 Shows Up for Not Guilty Plea

Updated Bulger photo/wbur

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

An eclectic mix of folks showed up Wednesday in federal court in Boston to see  James “Whitey” Bulger including former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, who insisted on indicting the Boston mobster in 1995 even after the FBI warned him that Bulger was an informant, the Boston Globe reported.

“I couldn’t miss it,’’ Stern said, according to the Globe. “I wasn’t sure this day would come, but here it is, and I’m looking forward to the trial.”

Other folks who appeared at his arraignment included relatives of the victims of Bulger, who is charged in 19 murders. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

The Globe reported that Bulger’s brother William M., former president of the Massachusetts Senate, and John, were seated in the front row.

To read the full story click here.

It’s Off to Prison for Smuggler of Lizards

Gecko/dept. of conservation

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s not the crime of the century.

Nonetheless, it’s prison time for Michael Plank, 42, of Lomita, Calif., who was sentenced Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court to 15 months behind bars for smuggling 15 lizards from Australia into the United States.

Essentially, he got one month in prison for every lizard.

Plank had pleaded guilty to smuggling two Geckos, two Monitor lizards and 11 Skink lizards from Australia in November 2009. He tried to pass through Customs at Los Angeles International Airport with the lizards in his money belts.

Federal law prohibits the importation of wildlife from another country without a permit. The animals must also be declared in the U.S. at the first point of entry.

“This sentence of 15 months in federal prison sends a strong message to both wildlife smugglers and would-be wildlife smugglers that the illegal trafficking in wildlife is a serious crime that will result in significant prison time for those who engage in thisdespicable activity,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Terrorist Suspect Held Aboard U.S. Navy Ship for 2 Months and Interrogated

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A Somali militant with ties to al Qaeda was interrogated aboard a U.S. Navy ship for two months by a High Value Interrogation team that included FBI agents, the LA Times reported.

The Times noted that it was the first time the Obama administration detained a terrorism suspect outside of the criminal justice system.

Senior administration officials revealed the case Tuesday against Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame after his indictment was unsealed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He was turned over to the FBI after the interrogation aboard the ship.

Authorities charged him with working to broker a weapons deal a weapons deal between Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen and the Somali militant group Shabab.

The Times reported that authorities alleged that he fought on Shabab’s behalf in Somalia in 2009, then went to Yemen in 2010 for explosives training and took part in terrorist activities there.

A press release out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said Warsame was seized April 19 by U.S. forces in international waters while traveling between Yemen and Somalia. The Times reported that he had been identified by U.S. intelligence as an important target.

While aboard the ship he was “humanely” interrogated by a High-Value Interrogation Group, which consists of FBI, CIA and Defense Department personnel, officials said, according to the Times.

One U.S. official said the CIA did not actually get involved in direct questioning, the result of controversies during the Bush years.

“This defendant is charged not only with providing material support to two notorious terrorist organizations, but with using automatic weapons and explosives to commit violence in the name of their ’cause,’” said Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the New York FBI, in  a statement.

Computer Geeks Continue to Wreak Havoc

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
Computer geeks are wreaking so much havoc we may soon have to have prison just for geeks.

The latest: The FBI has busted Jason Cornish, 37, of Smyrna, Ga., with hacking into a New Jersey pharmaceutical company’s computer network and shutting down operations, resulting in losses of at least $300,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.

“The computers on which companies do business are the engines of the 21st century economy,” Newark U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said late last week. “Malicious intrusions are against the law, regardless of motive. Hacking attacks devised as personal revenge can have serious repercussions for perpetrators as well as victims.”

“In this instance, Jason Cornish allegedly was able to inflict great damage to Shionogi, Inc., with the stroke of a few computer keys,” added Michael Ward, head of the Newark FBI.

Authorities said Cornish was an information technology employee at Shionogi, Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese pharmaceutical company with operations in New Jersey and Georgia.

In late September 2010, shortly after Cornish had resigned from Shionogi, the company announced layoffs that would affect a close friend and former supervisor, authorities said.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 3, Cornish gained unauthorized access to Shionogi’s computer network and took control of a piece of software that he had secretly installed on the server several weeks earlier.

Cornish then used the secretly installed software program to delete the contents of each of 15 “virtual hosts” on Shionogi’s computer network, authorities said.

The 15 virtual hosts housed the equivalent of 88 different computer servers.

The deleted servers housed most of Shionogi’s American computer infrastructure, including the company’s e mail and Blackberry servers, its order tracking system, and its financial management software, authorities said.

The attack effectively froze Shionogi’s operations for a number of days, leaving company employees unable to ship product, cut checks, or communicate by e-mail, authorities said.