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Holder Strategy Becomes Clear as His Senate Confirmation Hearing Begins

Eric Holdler/msnbc
Eric Holder/msnbc

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Yes, Eric H. Holder Jr. messed up, Yes he intends to be an INDEPENDENT  Attorney General, and Yes Yes Yes, the Marc Rich pardon was a BIG  BIG mistake, and Yes he would have done things differently now.
With his family and former FBI director Louis Freeh sitting behind him, Holder gave a brief speech as his Senate confirmation hearing began Thursday morning.
In all, the strategy of Holder and his supporters became quite evident at the onset: Emphasize his competence and integrity and admit that he made mistakes in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich when he was deputy Attorney General under President Clinton.
Former Sen. John Warner,  a well respected senator,  did just that, testifying this morning in favor Holder’s confirmation. He praised Holder, but said:
“Mr. Chairman, Eric Holder would be the first to say  that his career was marked by certain  misjudgments. He freely acknowledges that….but the key to this man is that he learned from those experiences. He learned in such a way that those misjudgments will not be repeated.”
Then Holder himself talked about Marc Rich and told the committee:
“I’ve accepted the responsibility of making those  mistakes. I never tried to hide, I never tried to blame anybody else.” He said he should have kept prosecutors on the case informed of what was going  on.
“I should have not spoken to the White House and expressed an opinion without knowing all of the facts in regards to that matter.”,
“I learned from that experience..I will be a better attorney general should I be confirmed, having had the Marc Rich experience.”
Sen. Arlen Specter, one of his more vocal critics in recent weeks, asked some tough questions about Rich.
But so far, it’s likely the mea culpa strategy coupled by emphasis on competence and integrity is likely to work.

Latest Bomb in Stevens Case: Judge Accuses Government of Misleading Him and Orders Atty. Gen. Mukasey to Sign Declaration Under Oath and Turn Over Documents

By Allan Lengel
tickethwire.com

In the latest explosive turn, the federal judge in the former Sen. Ted Stevens trial on Wednesday accused the government of misleading him about an FBI agent who filed a complaint about government misconduct in the case.
U.S District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan , in court papers filed Wednesday in Washington, essentially accused the government of misleading him about the “whistle blower status” of the agent Chad Joy, to prevent or limit the agent’s complaints from being made public and to keep his identity under wraps as long as possible.
Sullivan  (in photo) ordered Atty. General Michael Mukasey to turn over by Friday all relevant documents pertaining to Joy’s whistleblower status.
Stevens was convicted in October, but has asked for a new trial or that the case be dismissed based on allegations of government misconduct.
Agent Chad Joy’s name was first revealed Wednesday.  An investigator in the case, he has alleged government misconduct and has accused the lead FBI investigator Mary  Beth Kepner of having inappropriate relations with witnesses, using a source to help her husband get a job, leaking information about the case, accepting gifts from sources, meeting a government witness in her D.C. hotel room and disclosing to that witness the name of someone who testified before the grand jury.
According to the judge’s court papers, on Dec. 11, the government filed a motion to seal a “self-styled whistleblower” complaint it had received agent Chad Joy in the Stevens case. The defense soon objected to the document being sealed.
The government countered, arguing “strenuously” that the FBI agent’s complaint should not be made public based on the agent’s whistleblower status and privacy considerations. Such status gives government employees certain protections when they come forward with information about wrongdoing.

Read more »

More Details of Allegations of FBI Misconduct Come Out in Stevens Case

Ex-Sen. Ted Stevens/official photo

Ex-Sen. Ted Stevens/official photo

The case is only getting uglier. Whether the prosecution can survive all the allegations and maintain the conviction is a big question mark.  At minimum, a new trial could be in the making. But who knows.

By ERIKA BOLSTAD
Anchorage Daily News
WASHINGTON — One of the FBI agents assigned to investigate corruption in Alaska politics has accused the lead agent in the probe of unethical behavior, including leaking information about the inner workings of the agency to outsiders and seeking a job for her husband from people who were sources that led to the conviction in October of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.
The allegations against FBI Special Agent Mary Beth Kepner were first introduced last month, when Special Agent Chad Joy’s whistleblower complaint surfaced as part of Stevens’ appeal. Until Wednesday, however, much of Joy’s complaint was blacked out, leaving people to speculate about the identity of the whistleblower and the Justice Department co-workers he had accused of wrongdoing.
Joy also remained unnamed until Wednesday, when U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan held a court hearing to decide whether to allow the public to see additional blacked-out sections of the eight-page document. Joy, who began working for the FBI in 2003, was assigned to the public corruption probe soon after arriving at the Anchorage office in January 2004.
In his complaint, Joy largely focuses on Kepner’s relationship with her sources in the investigation. One of those sources, which is still redacted, “gave Kepner’s husband his current job as a security guard at the Port of Anchorage,” Joy wrote. Joy also accuses her of accepting artwork of her dog painted by the wife of another source, also unnamed, as well as house-hunting help when she moved from Juneau to Anchorage.
For Full Story

Read Latest Version of FBI Agent’s Allegations

Intelligence Report Finds No Credible Threats At Fla. Super Bowl

There are few sure things in life. Nonetheless, it sounds like super news about the Super Bowl. Let’s hope it holds true. Want a sure thing: Don’t bet on the 0-16 Detroit Lions doing much better next year.

By EILEEN SULLIVAN and MITCH STACY
Associated Press Writers
TAMPA, Fla. — A U.S. intelligence report says there is no credible threat of terrorist attacks at the Feb. 1 Super Bowl, but police said Wednesday that visitors should still expect the type of heavy security typical of every Super Bowl since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
While no specific threat was identified, a joint FBI and Homeland Security intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press cautions that Raymond James Stadium, the Super Bowl site, does not have the typical security features of permanently secure buildings, such as jails or military bases.
However, the report noted, “the visible presence of hundreds of well-equipped security officers, standoff barriers and other security measures likely will serve as deterrents to attack.”

For Full Story

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Prosecution Fails for Second Time to Put Madoff in Jail (Wall Street Journal)

Sen. Believes Ex-FBI Agent in Secret Iran Prison

The sad tale of ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson goes on. Here’s the latest twist.

Robert Levinson/photo helpboblevinson.com

Robert Levinson/photo helpboblevinson.com

By Fox News
A U.S. senator revealed Tuesday that he believes a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran nearly two years ago is being held in a secret prison there – much to the surprise of the ex-agent’s wife.
Sen. Bill Nelson’s comments on the disappearance of Robert Levinson came during Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s secretary of state confirmation hearing in Washington.
“I haven’t received any information about my husband,” Levinson’s wife, Christine, told The Associated Press.
For Full Story

FBI Launches System to Share Terrorism Tips with Local Police

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller III

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller III

Historically, local law enforcement has complained about the FBI not sharing enough information. There may still be complaints after this, but it may help deflect some complaints.

By DEVLIN BARRETT
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — The FBI has launched a system to share tips about possible terror threats with local police agencies just in time for the presidential inauguration.
The program aims to get law enforcement at all levels sharing data quickly about suspicious activity and people, particularly in and around the nation’s capital in the week leading up to the historic ceremony.
Officials say they are getting as many as 1,000 tips a day from the public.
Called e-Guardian, the program had been delayed and underwent a smaller pilot project before launching New Year’s Eve as a system available to law enforcement agencies around the country.
Federal authorities hope the new system overcomes a drawback of another version, which lets police report their suspicions to the FBI but doesn’t allow officers to search the system for similar patterns in other jurisdictions.

For Full Story

Happy Ending For Law Enforcement in Spa Crackdown

About ten years ago the Ann Arbor (MI) Police Department’s Deputy Chief came to me with a proposal. AAPD wanted to know if the FBI would be willing to help investigate Asian spas in Ann Arbor, and prosecute them federally. At the time I was the senior agent in the local FBI office and knew next to nothing about Asian spas. I was not even aware there were five such spas operating in the city.

I consulted with the local U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) and FBIHQ. I got the go-ahead and learned there were other similar cases being pursued elsewhere in the country. Further there were national implications involved, e.g., organized crime, indentured servitude, immigrant smuggling, and sexual exploitation, which the then US Attorney General had made a priority. I went back to AAPD and told them we could pursue the spas federally, but only if AAPD was willing to commit to a long-term investigation. To AAPDʼs credit, it made that commitment. (I wanted to codename the case Operation Hoedown, but due to some HQ’s sensibility issues, we had to settle for Seoul Provider.)

Ten years later, this story is worth recounting. These type of spas still operate around the country and exploit vulnerable women and degrade communities. We can’t ignore them. But what’s particularly nice about this story is how the FBI and the local police worked so well together, and in the end, the police department reaped the financial rewards from forfeitures.

At the onset of the case, the AAPD understood that the spas could be shut down easily like the speakeasies of the prohibition era, but to have any lasting impact the owners had to to be identified and prosecuted.  It was relatively easy to show there was prostitution occurring in these spas, the trick (no pun intended) was to prove the owners had knowledge that prostitution was occurring, and they were
profiting from it.

All of the spas in Ann Arbor were run by Korean Americans and surveillance and telephone pen-registers indicated some interaction between spas in Ann Arbor and all over the country. All of the spas that we became aware of in Michigan and Ohio were run by Korean Americans. All of these spas had a very similar operating procedure. The working girls were almost exclusively Asian and lived on the premises and seldom left. They moved from one spa to another after six weeks to two months. The spas were usually managed by older Asian women, who were in effect madams. Often the spas would have the working girls sign agreements as independent contractors, thus helping give the owners plausible deniability as to knowledge of sexual activity. The working girls were in almost all cases uncooperative with law enforcement and could not be relied upon as potential witnesses. Despite them being exploited, most had very limited skills, English language ability and were in an indentured servitude status. Life was not good by American standards, but pretty good compared to what they had come from.

The spas operated seven days a week with very long hours, e.g., 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. (not the kind of hours observed in legitimate massage parlors). The spas would set fees such as $45 for a half hour and $60 for an hour. Generally these initial fees went to the house. The money for sex was added to the initial fee and was negotiated based on the sexual activity. The money for sex was split between the house and the girls. All of the spas we investigated accepted credit cards. This turned out to be a key element in proving the owners knowledge. The owners would establish the merchant account to enable them to accept credit cards. Thus, all proceeds from the credit cards went directly to the owner. So if a customer were to pay his initial fee with a credit card and then within 10 or 15 minutes have a second charge in excess of $100 made on the card it was obvious what was occurring and difficult for the owner to argue they had no knowledge of the sexual activity. (All the credit transaction information was obtained via subpoena.) This coupled with physical surveillance, which included “trash pulls” (the trash pulls revealed among other things, used condoms and daily business records)   and evidence obtained when we ultimately executed search warrants resulted in all of the spa owners being convicted of federal felony charges.

Most of these charges were based on Interstate Transportation In Aid Of Racketeering (ITAR)-prostitution statute (18USC1952), but there were also immigration statutes that were applicable. Also if the owners were not US citizens, they were subject to deportation upon conviction.

The reward for AAPD’s commitment to a long-term investigation was that they received most of about $1 million in criminal forfeiture proceeds seized from the convicted owners.
Yes, for law enforcement, it was a happy ending.

 

Greg Stejskal

Homeland Security Approves Kansas State U. Site For Lab to Study Livestock Diseases and Biological Threats

In the heartland of America, scientists will be tasked with saving our food supply.

By JASON GERTZEN
The Kansas City Star

Kansas gained final approval Monday for a $650 million federal biodefense laboratory that officials heralded for its potential to protect the food supply and boost the state’s economy.
Last month Kansas emerged as the top recommendation for the planned National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. On Monday, Jay Cohen, undersecretary for science and technology for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, made the pick official.
Cohen signed a “record of decision” that will bring to the Manhattan campus of Kansas State University a complex that will employ hundreds of scientists and other workers.
The facility is charged with developing innovations for detecting and countering potentially devastating outbreaks of diseases that can affect livestock, and possibly public health.
For Full Story In the heartland of America, a lab could help protect us from one of the the biggest dangers in the 21st Century: biological threats to the nation’s food supply.

For Full Story

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