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Senate Confirms Justice Dept. Nominees Lanny Breuer, Tony West & Christine Varney

Lanny Breuer

Lanny Breuer

As expected, the Senate gave the nod to the latest Justice Department appointees. 

By Mary Jacoby
Main Justice
WASHINGTON — After minimal debate, the Senate this evening quickly confirmed Lanny Breuer as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division; Tony West as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, and Christine Varney as Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division.

Their confirmation votes had been delayed by controversy over veteran diplomat Christopher Hill’s nomination to be ambassador to Iraq, prompting Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to complain that Republicans had delayed getting key Obama nominees in place at the Justice Department. The nominees were uncontroversial and should have been confirmed by voice vote, Leahy added.

Noting the unanimous support for Breuer, a Covington & Burling partner and former Clinton White House lawyer, Leahy said: “The right thing has been done. Not a single dissenting vote.” That prompted Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary panel, to chime in about Varney: “Let’s confirm her.”

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Turf Battles Could Hurt Drug Investigations (Wall Street Journal)

Congrats to the 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winners, Particularly Schaefer and Elrick at the Detroit Free Press

pulitzer-prizeBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — It goes without saying, the media and law enforcement don’t always see eye to eye.

But there are certainly plenty times when the media, like law enforcement,  works for the good of the public, unearthing injustice, exposing criminal wrongdoing.

The Pulitizer Prizes are one way of acknowledging some of the great work journalists do. It’s particularly noteworthy at a time when the business is contracting, when some are papers are folding, when budgets are shrinking and some of the best journalists are getting laid off or are simply opting for other work.

So it’s with a lot of joy today that I congratulate some of my favorite folks in newspapers for winning Pulitzer Prizes. I’d like to give a particularly hearty congrats to Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick of the Detroit Free Press,  two great reporters,  who won a Pulitzer for local reporting on the text message scandal in Detroit that ultimately resulted in Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick stepping down and going to jail.

I’d also like to offer a congrats to former Washington Post colleague Gene Robinson, a thought provoking columnist, who deservingly won a Pulizter for commentary;  and former Post colleague Serge Kovaleski, a dogged reporter with an amusing sense of humor, who was part of the New York Times team that won a Pulitzer for breaking news on the fascinating story about Gov. Eliot Spitzer.  The governor eventually resigned.

There hasn’t been a lot of good news about newspapapers these days. But this is good news. Some good folks got the recognition they deserved.

See Complete List of Pulitzer Prizes

FBI Snags Extortionist Using Trojan Software

computer-photo1The FBI managed to implant software on the computer of an individual threatening to extort money from several major communications companies, leading them straight to his doorstep. While the exact capabilities of the CIPAV (Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier) software are unknown, it’s encouraging to see the FBI using technology in innovative ways to fight the bad guys.

By Gregg Keizer
Computerworld.com
The FBI used spyware to catch a Massachusetts man who tried to extort money from Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. by cutting 18 cables carrying voice and data in 2005, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Wired.com revealed yesterday.

Although the man’s name was redacted in the documents provided to the Web site, their description of the case matches that of Danny M. Kelly, an unemployed engineer who at the time lived in Chelmsford, Mass. According to federal court records, Kelly was accused of cutting a total of 18 above-ground communications cables between November 2004 and February 2005 as part of a plot to extort money from Verizon and Comcast.

“Kelly sent a series of anonymous letters to Comcast and Verizon, in which he took responsibility for the cable cuts and threatened to continue and increase this activity if the companies did not establish multiple bank accounts for him and make monthly deposits into these accounts,” the original complaint read.

According to the complaint, Kelly demanded $10,000 monthly from each company, and he told the firms to post the bank account information on a private Web page that he demanded they create.

For Full Story

Tension Between FBI and American-Islamic Community Grows

mosqueTension between the FBI and the American-Islamic community continues to grow, damaging inroads that have been made since Sept. 11, 2001. Both sides need to do something to turn it around.

Paloma Esquivel
Los Angeles Times
As they sipped tea and nibbled on dates, more than 100 men and women listened to a litany of speakers sounding the same message: The FBI is not your friend.

“We’re here today to say our mosques are off limits,” Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for Greater Los Angeles, told the crowd last month at an Anaheim mosque.

“Our Koran is off limits,” Ayloush said. “Our youth, who they try to radicalize, are off limits. Now is the time to tell them, ‘We’re not going to let this happen anymore.’ ”

Such strong words from a man who once was a vocal advocate of ties with federal law enforcement was yet one more signal that the fragile relationship between Muslim American groups and the FBI is being tested.

In the months and years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, FBI officials met privately with Muslim leaders, assuring them that a spate of hate crimes would be vigorously investigated and at the same time asking for help in the campaign against terrorism. Local leaders promised to encourage cooperation.

For Full Story

Rep. Jane Harman Caught on Wiretap Saying She’ll Lobby Justice Dept. To Reduce Israeli Related Espionage Charges

Conversations like this, once made public, never seem very flattering. What’s the fallout from all this? Who knows.

Rep. Jane Harman

Rep. Jane Harman

By Jeff Stein
CQ SpyTalk Columnist
WASHINGTON — Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.

Harman was recorded saying she would “waddle into” the AIPAC case “if you think it’ll make a difference,” according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.

In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agent pledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi , D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections, which the Democrats were heavily favored to win.

Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, “This conversation doesn’t exist.”

For Full Story

Commentary: 14 Years After the Oklahoma Bombing, We Must Not Forget the Potential of Homegrown Terrorism

 

Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — One Friday, two days after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, I was sitting at my desk at the Detroit News  in downtown Detroit when I got a tip that the FBI was raiding a farmhouse in Michigan, and it had something to do with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma.

In short time, I hopped in a car with another reporter and rushed northward up I-75 to Decker, Mi., a rural farming community two hours outside Detroit, where a guy named Tim McVeigh had hung out with two brothers named James and Terry Nichols.

By the time I arrived, the quiet little community,  flush with lush farms and pickup trucks with rifle racks,  was swarming with reporters and television trucks. Everyone – including the locals — was fixated on the farmhouse nearby that had been  cordoned off and was full of FBI and ATF agents gathering evidence.

I stood on the dusty farm road that day thinking that homegrown terrorism had stormed America in a way never seen before. Eight federal agents were dead. Another 160 in the federal building were too.

I spent the next week in the area of the state known as “The  Thumb”, tracking down leads, staying in a motel in nearby Cass City, where you checked in at the front desk of the bowling alley across the street. (I bowled one of my highest games – 217).

After that week, I went up every week to follow up on leads and to talk to James Nichols, the brother of convicted bomber Terry Nichols. I usually stopped by the Decker Tavern, grabbed a cheap can of beer and talked to folks. The bartender remembered serving beers to Tim McVeigh. She even recalled his brand.

The first night there, a fellow reporter John Bebow and I headed to the Decker Tavern to talk to locals. A Detroit News photographer accompanied us, Joe DeVera, who was Filipino. The bar and the town had suddenly been transformed from an all white community to a United Nations; foreign reporters from Spain and France; Asians , Black and Jews.

The cash register frantically rang all night at the tavern. But the locals seemed less than enthusiastic.  As Joe, the photographer, headed to the bathroom, an elderly local patron at the bar turned to another and noted that there was a “Gook” in the bar.

It struck me that some of the locals had spent their lives avoiding the rest of America – particularly Detroit. Now, with the snap of a finger, the rest of America had come to them. It was an eye-opener to meet the local militias, the unknown Americans that hated the federal government, the farmers who felt they’d been screwed by the government.

The next day, on a Saturday, the swarm of reporters returned to the farmhouse. There were undercover ATF agents trying to blend in, trying to meet the local militias. I knew some of them from back in Detroit. In at least one instance, one those undercover agents got an invite to dinner at one of the locals. When he saw me on a dirt road near the farm, he gave me a look like “stay away, don’t blow my cover.” I obliged.

Eventually, Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols were convicted.

Still, to this day, I’m not sure the whole story has been told.

Whatever the case, it’s interesting to note how the homegrown terrorists quickly took a backseat to al Qaeda and the likes after Sept. 11, 2001. For the majority in America, the threat of the Tim McVeighs seemed to have faded.

But one thing we must remember: As unemployment rises, as the economy sinks and as hate groups try to use the Obama election as a recruiting tool, America and federal agencies like the FBI and ATF must not forget or take lightly these domestic hate groups or the fringe members or the “lone wolf” wannabes.  You just never know what they’re capable of.

Just ask the Oklahomans.

Oklahomans Commemorate 14th Anniversary of Bombing that Killed 8 Federal Agents and 160 Others

Bomber Tim McVeigh

Bomber Tim McVeigh

It’s been 14 years since eight federal agents and 160 other people were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing that shook the security of this nation. The landscape of terrorism has changed since then, but people in Oklahoma will never forget that day.

By JAMES S. TYREE
Tulsa World
OKLAHOMA CITY – Susan Walton suffered a facial skull fracture, nerve damage behind both eyes, a broken nose, multiple jaw fractures, six busted teeth, a ruptured spleen, and legs crushed beneath both knees.

She was lucky.

Walton, of northwest Oklahoma City, sustained the injuries at the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people. Susan and her husband, Richard Walton, and others filled the Oklahoma City National Memorial lawn during the 14th annual remembrance ceremony on a cold, blustery Sunday morning.

“We come for the same reason they built the memorial – for us to remember and to have hope for the future, and to see the people we’ve made friends with over the years whose lives were affected,” said Walton, who is doing well now, following years of recovery.

Gov. Brad Henry and Jane Lute, U.S. Department of Homeland Security deputy secretary, attended the 55-minute event that was more spiritual than political in nature.

Aryans in Idaho Say Obama “Greatest Recruiting Tool Ever”

Federal law enforcement has watched in the past year as chatter on hate-based websites increased with the popularity of Barack Obama. Obama may be a nightmare come true for the Aryan members. But it’s appears to be a dream come true for organizers trying to ramp up membership.

idaho
By The Associated Press
COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — The Aryan Nations has returned to northern Idaho with what it is calling a “world headquarters” and a recruitment campaign.

Coeur d’Alene resident Jerald O’Brien, who has a large swastika tattoo on his scalp, is one of the leaders of the white supremacist group and said he expects membership to grow because of the election of President Barack Obama.

He told The Spokesman-Review newspaper that the president is the “greatest recruiting tool ever.”

Residents of a Coeur d’Alene subdivision found recruitment fliers on their lawns Friday and O’Brien said more fliers will be distributed. He said the group has “several handfuls” of members in the city.

The fliers show a young girl asking her father “Why did those dark men take mommy away?”

But many in the region reject the group.

“I saw Aryan Nations and put it in the trash,” said Garvin Jones. “What’s wrong with these people? Give me a break. I bet if you went back in their family history, not one is 100 percent white.”

The newspaper reported that most people interviewed about the fliers declined to be identified for fear of retribution.

For Full Story