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Court of Appeals Orders Detroit Reporter to Answer Pre-trial Questions in Case Involving Confidential Sources

David Ashenfelter

David Ashenfelter

The chess game between an ex-federal prosecutor and a Pulitzer Prize reporter continues to play out in Detroit. The media and federal law enforcement community is watching. The latest court order came down on Thursday.

By JOE SWICKARD
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — A federal appeals court said this afternoon that Free Press reporter David Ashenfelter will have to sit for pretrial questioning by attorneys for a former federal prosecutor wanting to find out who leaked word to Ashenfelter that he was under an internal investigation.
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Free Press attorneys had asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the deposition process ordered by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland for next Tuesday, but the appellate court said in a two-page order that Ashenfelter hadn’t shown Cleland abused his discretion.

Ashenfelter has refused to name his source for his 2004 story, citing First Amendment freedom of press protections and Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

The former prosecutor, Richard Convertino, came under fire and stood trial for alleged misconduct in a discredited 2003 terror trial. He has said that Ashenfelter may have conspired with the leakers to break federal laws. Convertino was acquitted in 2007 of hiding evidence from defense lawyers in the terror trial.

Cleland has said he’ll decide if Ashenfelter’s assertions are valid on a question-by-question basis.
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Transportation Security Administration Hopes to Ditch Airport Rule Against Carrying on Liquids & Gels

JetIf ever there was an annoying rule, it’s the one at the airport about carrying on liquids and gels. The sooner this one goes away the better. I can’t count how many times I’ve forgotten and had to throw out bottles of water at the security checkpoint.

By Budget Travel website
The TSA’s goal is to lift the restrictions on carrying liquids, aerosols, and gels aboard aircraft. Toward that end, the TSA has been rolling out new luggage screening machines that can tell the difference between a harmless drink and a deadly explosive. Already, about 500 of these AT X-ray machines have been installed. That number should be doubled by year-end.

By fall 2009, the TSA hopes to get rid of its rule that you must carry all of your liquids in a single clear bag. For a brief period, you’ll probably still have to place all of your liquids in a plastic bin separate from your laptop and carry-on bag when passing through airport screening machines.

By next winter, the TSA hopes to lift its size restrictions on liquids, which now limit the carry-on size to 3.4 liquid ounces. The timetable depends on how quickly software updates can be installed on all of the machines and how quickly TSA agents can be trained to use the machines correctly. Officials with the British counterpart to the TSA, the transport ministry, have made a similar pledge.

Another change is to move the baggage screening machines from airport terminals, where they clutter the floor, and put them off-site. So-called “in-line” machines at the Las Vegas and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airports can test bags for explosives without requiring the physical handling of each bag. Las Vegas airport, for once, has embraced the change because it can use the freed-up terminal space to add more slot machines for waiting passengers to use. (For a video explanation of the new baggage inspection system, see below.)

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httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Yre_NUaAF0&feature=player_embedded

Denver Fed Judge Refuses to Toss Lawsuit Involving Secret Service and Dick Cheney

This case seems to have an amusing aspect to it. Maybe just the thought of Dick Cheney testifying in court seems to have some entertainment value. 

By Felisa Cardona dick-cheney
The Denver Post
DENVER — A federal judge in Denver has declined to toss out a lawsuit against four U.S. Secret Service agents who arrested a man in Beaver Creek in 2006 after he approached then-Vice President Dick Cheney to criticize the Iraq war.

“There are too many disputed issues of material fact to grant summary judgment in this case,” U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello ruled from the bench Tuesday.

Lawyers for the Secret Service had asked that the case be tossed based on “qualified immunity,” meaning the officers are immune from lawsuits if they make an honest mistake in an arrest.

Steven Howards sued the four agents, claiming they violated his civil rights after he was arrested for allegedly harassing Cheney in June 2006. Howards said he simply walked up to Cheney at a Beaver Creek shopping area, touched him and said his policy in Iraq was “disgusting.”
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Wiretaps Helps Maryland Feds and Locals Bust 24 People Linked to “Black Guerilla Family” Gang Including Prison Guards

baltimoreThis is a case right out the HBO show “The Wire”; prison guards and  drug dealers.  Authorities were able to listen in on conversations of smuggled prison cell phones.
By Justin Fenton
Baltimore Sun
   
A seven-month investigation that included wiretaps on contraband prison cell phones led to the indictment of 24 people, including four state prison officers, who authorities believe were part of a prison gang that extorted protection money from other inmates, directed drug distribution and arranged attacks on witnesses.

Federal and local law enforcement officials said the suspects are affiliated with the Black Guerilla Family, and placed “hits” on suspected informants and discussed robberies of drug dealers and assaults on rival gang members. Authorities say the investigation helped provide real-time intelligence to the Department of Corrections.

Among those charged was Eric Brown, the alleged leader of the BGF in Maryland, and Tomeka Harris, the operator of the Northeast Baltimore establishment Club 410 that was shut down by police last month. Harris had scoffed at allegations at a hearing that the club was associated with the gang, and testified that the club had a positive impact on the community.

On Monday afternoon, police say they broke up a Black Guerilla Family gang meeting in Druid Hill Park in which 100 to 200 people had gathered. Court documents show that police recovered gang handbooks and a list of members who had violated gang rules.

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Obama Rules Out Charging CIA Operatives Who Used Harsh Interrogation Techniques

obama-and-biden1Pretty much as many expected, the CIA operatives who used harsh interrogation techiniques won’t be charged. Not a big surprise. One thing for sure, prosecuting those cases would have been one big political and legal mess.

By MARK MAZZETTI and SCOTT SHANE
New York Times
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department made public on Thursday detailed memos describing harsh interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency, as President Obama said that C.I.A. operatives who carried out the techniques would not be prosecuted.

One technique authorized for use by the C.I.A. beginning in August 2002 was the use of “insects placed in a confinement box,” presumably to induce fear on the part of a terror suspect.

The interrogation methods were among the Bush administration’s most closely guarded secrets, and what was released on Thursday afternoon marked the most comprehensive public accounting to date of a program that some senior Obama administration officials have included illegal torture.

One memo showed that a top Justice Department lawyer issued a legal opinion in 2005 saying that C.I.A. officers were allowed to use a combination of interrogation methods to produce a more effective result.

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Fed Prosecutors Back Off Push to Put D.C.’s Marion Barry in Jail

It looks like the Teflon City Councilman will skirt jail.
Councilman Marion Barry

Councilman Marion Barry

The legend lives on.

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors today backed off their request that D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) should be sent to jail for violating his  probation on tax offenses.

Instead, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Zeno said, Barry should be confined at his home for 30 days and a judge should extend his probation for two more years.

The change of heart came during a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, who is weighing a request by prosecutors to revoke Barry’s probation. Robinson did not rule today but said she would issue a written order in the future.

Barry’s attorney, Frederick D. Cooke Jr., said the former mayor should be released from his probation for a 2005 tax conviction. At worst, Cooke said, his probation should be extended another year.

After the hearing, Barry said he was not surprised prosecutors withdrew their request for jail time.

“They can read the tea leaves,” the former mayor said, apparently referring to tough questions that Robinson asked prosecutors during the hearing. Probation officials also stopped short of recommending jail time for Barry. They said the judge should extend Barry’s probation for two more years.

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Republicans Criticize Homeland Report Characterizing Military Vets as Right-Wing Extremists

veteran-affairsHomeland security created a hot potato when it issued this report. But Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a written statement on Wednesday defending the report saying “we must protect the country from terrorism whether foreign or homegrown, and regardless of the ideology  that motivates violence.”  Some conservatives aren’t buying that.

 By EILEEN SULLIVAN
Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Republicans on Wednesday said a Homeland Security Department intelligence assessment unfairly characterizes military veterans as right-wing extremists.House Republican leader John Boehner described the report as offensive and called on the agency to apologize to veterans.

The agency’s intelligence assessment, sent to law enforcement officials last week, warns that right-wing extremists could use the bad state of the U.S. economy and the election of the country’s first black president to recruit members.

The assessment also said that returning military veterans who have difficulties assimilating back into their home communities could be susceptible to extremist recruiters or might engage in lone acts of violence.

“To characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable,” said Boehner, R-Ohio.

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OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

David Heyman, Nominee for Assist. Sec. of Policy for Homeland Security is Well Respected ( Security DeBrief)

Indicted Ex-Gov. Blago Wants to Go on NBC Reality TV Show: Needs Judge’s Permission

This guy was a born entertainer. After his arrest, he worked the television circuit like a tv star. Now he’s taking it up one notch with reality tv.  The real name of the reality TV show should be: “Is this Guy For Real?”

Blago When He was still Gov

Blago when he was still Gov

BY NATASHA KORECKI
Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — When he was indicted, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich went to Disney World. Now that he’s been arraigned on federal corruption charges, Blagojevich wants to head off to the jungles of Costa Rica.

Blagojevich has signed on to do the “Survivor”-style reality show “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” that’s to be filmed in June in Costa Rica.

The prime-time NBC program will pay contestants up to $80,000 an episode. Until they’re voted off, anyway.

Among the others on the show: Nancy Kerrigan, of ice-skating / knee-thrashing fame.

But first the former governor needs permission from U.S. District Judge James Zagel to travel outside the country. He’s expected to ask for that next week.

Blagojevich, who went on a national TV and radio blitz earlier this year, is doing the NBC show to bring in some money, sources close to the ex-governor say. He’s been unemployed since the Illinois Legislature booted him from office in January. His wife, Patti Blagjevich, is also unemployed after she was let go from her fund-raising job with the Chicago Christian Industrial League.

Blagojevich is also trying to finish writing his book, which is due in May. He signed for a six-figure advance for the book earlier this year. It’s expected out in the fall.

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