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Justice Dept. Official Apologizes For Not Notifying Boss About “Gun Walking” Cases

Lanny Breuer

By Carrie Johnson
NPR

WASHINGTON — A top political appointee in the Obama Justice Department says he made a “mistake” when he didn’t flag questionable tactics used by federal agents in a gun-trafficking case for his superiors last year.

Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division, told NPR he found out in April 2010 that agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had let more than 400 guns connected to suspicious buyers cross the Southwest border during the Bush years, but he didn’t tell senior leadership at the Justice Department.

“Knowing what I know now, I wish that I had alerted the deputy or the attorney general at the time,” he said.

To read more click here.

 

Read NY Times story 

Artist Offers Whole Life’s Details to FBI, Public

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

When Hasan M. Elahi landed in Detroit, Mich., and walked into the country on June 19, 2002, a customs official asked that Elahi follow him to an Immigration and Naturalization Services office at the airport.

That incident initiated a period of “questioning went on for the next six months and ended with a series of polygraph examinations,” Elahi wrote in the New York Times on Sunday, and it “turned my life upside down,” he said.

Elahi, an associate professor and interdisciplinary artist at the University of Maryland,  describes himself as neurotic about record keeping, and in the office at the airport he and the investigator were able to look at his electronic personal assistant and retrace the steps he took on September 12, 2001, he wrote in the Times. Seeming pleased, the interrogator let Elahi go. But Elahi was soon contacted by federal authorities for more questioning.

The level of detailed information he began sharing with the FBI in the months following inspired a project Elahi pursued on his own websites. Elahi was nervous about the FBI’s interest in him and wanted to cooperate in letting them know all of his travel plans and whereabouts. When an interrogator finally cleared him and said for Elahi to let them know if he needed anything, Elahi-not wanting another hassle upon his return-sent agents his plans for traveling outside of the country in the near future, he wrote.

But Elahi piled the information high. “Soon I began to e-mail the F.B.I. I started to send longer e-mails, with pictures, and then with links to Web sites I made. I wrote some clunky code for my phone back in 2003 and turned it into a tracking device … I created a list of every flight I’ve ever been on, since birth. For the more recent flights, I noted the exact flight numbers, recorded in my frequent flier accounts, and also photographs of the meals that I ate on each flight, as well as photos of each knife provided by each airline on each flight.”

On his own websites, which he sent links to federal agents to, he included databases of his personal financial records, his daily habits and whereabouts, pictures he had taken.

Elahi wrote in the Times: “In an era in which everything is archived and tracked, the best way to maintain privacy may be to give it up. Information agencies operate in an industry that values data. Restricted access to information is what makes it valuable. If I cut out the middleman and flood the market with my information, the intelligence the F.B.I. has on me will be of no value.”

Elahi went further. The actions may be more symbolic than anything, he admitted, “but if 300 million people started sending private information to federal agents, the government would need to hire as many as another 300 million people, possibly more, to keep up with the information and we’d have to redesign our entire intelligence system.” He derided the current intelligence system as stuck in a Cold War mentality, and encouraged the many “incredibly intelligent people and very sophisticated computer systems in various agencies in Washington” to move beyond a 20th century mentality and start creating better ways to use and analyze information, rather than endlessly collect it.

Whether the project seems a poignant response to his experience, or just the overly academic philosophizing of an abstract University artist, questions about responding to and dealing with the flood of information federal agents face is something to be pondered. “What I’m doing is no longer just an art project; creating our own archives has become so commonplace that we’re all — or at least hundreds of millions of us — doing it all the time. Whether we know it or not,” Elahi wrote.

 

FBI Testing Somali Bomber’s DNA, May Match Minnesotan Youth

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The remains of a suicide bomber in Somalia are being tested by the FBI. Some believe the bomber may be one of at least 21 young Somali-American men that in recent years have left Minneapolis to join al-Shabab, the Somali terrorist group, reports the Associated Press.

If tests confirm the deceased to be Abdisalan Hussein Ali, he will be the third Minnesotan to have been involved in a Somali suicide attack. The state is home to the nation’s largest Somali population.

“I don’t understand,” a Minnesota Somali community leader, Nimco Ahmed, told the AP.  “It’s really really painful to actually see one of the kids who has a bright future ahead of them do this. … It’s a loss for our whole society.”

The suicide attack was carried out Saturday against an African Union base in the capital city of Mogadishu, killing 10, including 2 suicide bombers, according to the AP report.

Al-Shabab claimed over the weekend that the attack was carried out by a Somali-American named Abdisalan Taqabalahullaah. Al-Shabab posted a recording online they said was Taqabalahullaa, and Omar Jamal, first secretary of the Somali mission to the United Nations, said friends of Ali identified the recording as Ali’s voice.

The Anthrax Investigation: The View From the FBI

Michael P. Kortan is the assistant director of Public Affairs for the FBI at headquarters in Washington.

Michael Kortan (left) talking to ex-FBI Dir. Louis Freeh /fbi file photo

By Michael Kortan
N.Y. Times Letter to the Editor

WASHINGTON — I take issue with several points in your Oct. 18 editorial “Who Mailed the Anthrax Letters?”

First, the National Academy of Sciences report concluded that the anthrax in the mailings was consistent with the anthrax produced in Dr. Bruce Ivins’s suite. The report stated, at the same time, that it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the samples based on science alone. But investigators and prosecutors have long maintained that while science played a significant role, it was the totality of the investigative process that ultimately determined the outcome of the anthrax case.

Further, scientists directly involved in the lengthy investigation into the anthrax mailings — both from within the F.B.I. and outside experts — disagree with the notion that the chemicals in the mailed anthrax suggest more sophisticated manufacturing.

To read the rest click here.

Widow of Anthrax Victim Settles Lawsuit Against Feds

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Maureen Stevens’ legal battle with the feds over the anthrax death of her husband seems to be over.

Reuters reports that the widow of the deceased Florida tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens — one of five people killed in the 2001 anthrax attacks in the U.S. — has reached a settlement with the government in her wrongful death suit. She had asked for $50 million in damages, but the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

“The parties have reached a tentative settlement subject to required approval by officials in the Department of Justice,” said a Oct. 27 document filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach, according to Reuters.

Maureen Stevens had filed the suit in 2003, saying the government was negligent by failing to secure the anthrax used in the attacks.

The government eventually concluded that government scientist Bruce Ivins had sent the deadly anthrax. Ivins committed suicide in July 2008, just before the feds planned to charge him in the case.

Some scientists and Congressional members have questioned whether Ivins was really the culprit, but the Justice Department and the FBI have insisted the evidence as whole is overwhelming.

The Examiner Editorial: On FOIA, Obama Wants a License to Lie

By The Examiner
Editorial Page

It’s not often that the liberal American Civil Liberties Union and conservative Judicial Watch agree on anything, but the Obama administration’s lack of transparency has brought the two together.

Obama’s Justice Department has proposed a regulatory change that would weaken the Freedom of Information Act. Under the new rules, the government could falsely respond to those who file FOIA requests that a document does not exist if it pertains to an ongoing criminal investigation, concerns a terrorist organization, or a counterintelligence operation involving a foreign nation.

There are two problems with the Obama proposal to allow federal officials to affirmatively assert that a requested document doesn’t exist when it does. First, by not citing a specific exemption allowed under the FOIA as grounds for denying a request, the proposal would cut off a requestor from appealing to the courts.

To read more click here. 

 

FBI Releases Some Gems; Videos, Photos, Documents of Probe into Russian Spy Ring

Russian spy Christopher Metsos, right, swaps information in a “brush pass” with an official from the Russian Mission in New York in 2004. The image from a video is part of a trove of documents, photos, and surveillance released by the FBI as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request

 
 
AllanLengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has released some gems; videos, photos and documents relating to the arrests of 10 Russian spies last year.

Along with the materials, the FBI noted that the spy ring was “a chilling reminder that espionage on U.S. soil did not disappear when the Cold War ended. The highly publicized case also offered a rare glimpse into the sensitive world of counterintelligence and the FBI’s efforts to safeguard the nation from those who would steal our vital secrets.”

“Our case against the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) operatives—dubbed Operation Ghost Stories—went on for more than a decade. Today we are releasing dozens of still images, surveillance video clips, and documents related to the investigation as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.”

Spy Anna Chapman meets with undercover agent

WATCH ALL THE VIDEOS

BROWSE PHOTOS 

READ DOCUMENTS

DEA, ICE and Ariz. Police Bust 70 Linked to Cartel That Provides 65% of Drugs to U.S.

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

A major drug bust in Arizona targeted folks linked to a Mexican cartel believed to handle 65 percent of all drugs illegally transported to the United States, and resulted in the seizure of thousands of pounds of narcotics and at least 70 arrests, reports Reuters.

The raids, overseen by the DEA, Arizona state officials, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the contraband confiscated was “jaw-dropping.”

The operation included three raids conducted over 17 months and led to the arrests of Mexican and American nationals working with a drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

In what officials called a “sophisticated network” of international drug smuggling, drugs were smuggled from Mexico into Arizona by car, plane, on foot, and through tunnels.

“This is one of the more substantial drug-smuggling operations going on right now. This is a billion-dollar drug trade organization linked to the cartel,” an official told MSNBC.

To read more click here.