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Special Report

Tales of the Secret Service

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Secret Service Agents Guard President Harry Truman/anheier collection

By Allan Lengel
Ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON– On the day President Kennedy was shot in 1963, Secret Service agents Dick Johnsen and Andy Berger stood guard outside the operating room at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Their instructions were simple: Don’t let a soul in the operating room unless they get the ok from the attending physician.

At one point, an FBI investigator tried to get in. The agents said no way. A scuffle ensued. The FBI agent ended up face down on the hospital floor. The Secret Service agents then chased him away.

A U.S. Senator from Texas witnessed the incident and told the agents he would vouch for them if necessary, according to the account by Johnsen.

The tale, a hidden treasure up until now – has been one of the countless historical nuggets ex-Secret Service agents James E. Le Gette and Keith Stauffer have unearthed while interviewing 30 retired Secret Service employees so far over the past 14 months at dining room tables and offices across the Washington D.C. region.

Le Gette and Stauffer , who reside in the Washington area, have launched a project called Sentinels of the Service-  a collection of oral histories of retired U.S. Secret Service agents, officers, technicians and administrative aides.

“We do the whole gamut, we’re  after everybody, ” Le Gette said.

Le Gette said the plan is to house written transcripts of the interviews at the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington for the public to view on-site or online. The materials will also used by researchers.

The questions is: Why do this?
“We have a historical mindset,” says Le Gette, an affable man who adds “this is something the two of us can do to give back to the Service.”

Le Gette, 71, paid his dues in the Secret Service. He entered on July 20, 1964 in the San Francisco field office and over the years worked on details including President Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and Jimmy Carter. He retired in 1985 as special agent in charge of the Baltimore field office and went on to become an assistant inspector general at GSA. Stauffer, in his 50s, specialized in computer fraud and was on the Henry Kissinger detail at one point.

Le Gette says so far, the folks he’s interviewed – all have been men except one — have either been people he worked with or for.

He said he sees a common thread among the employees.
“Everyone of these guys, all came up fairly middle class or even middle lower class: no silver spoon in anyone’s mouth that we’ve talked to. They all started out in relatively humble beginnings and through education and hardwork worked their way through.”

Then there’s the favorite president, the one that seemed to get the most praise during interviews.

“Truman was the best guy they ever had to work around as far as being friendly,” he said. “The whole idea, cooperative, understanding, first name basis. And they liked his politics too for the most part. Truman is the standout president clear up until the last Bush.

Le Gette says the project is totally ” free and independent from headquarters. We have a lot of freedom.”

So you’d think there would be some pretty scintillating things in the interviews; some dirt, some secrets. Think again.

“We only look at the positive stuff,” he said. “We’re not looking for any dirt or any secrets people have stumbled into during their careers. ”

He said the interview can take up to five hours. Afterwards, the tapes are transcribed at a cost of about $600 to $800. Then they’re edited – they take out repetitious language and any scandalous tidbits — and are given to the retired employees to see if they want to add or subtract anything. Then comes the final product.

He said the families of the retired Secret Service employees have been grateful.

“Every family members says every time ‘thank God you got him to sit down and tell the story of his life.’ There’s stuff they’ve said they never heard of before.”

Le Gette said people can send donations for the non-profit project to: Sentinels of the Service, Inc., 470 Lission Ct., Severna Park, MD 21146-1640, Attn: James E. Le Gette, Executive Director ( 410-647-2518)

Here are some summaries of interviews provided by Le Gette:

  • During Vice-President Nixon’s visit to Caracas, Venezuela, on May 13, 1958, H. Stuart Knight, a Special Agent with the U. S. Secret Service (Later to become the Director of the Secret Service) was injuried and concerned for his life as he and one other agent fought the mobs which surrounded the Vice-President’s vehicle. On three different occasions, while motorcading from the airport to an official stop, Knight and Bob Taylor ventured out of their security car in order to defend Nixon’s vehicle which was transporting him and the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. The agents and the vehicle were hit by many objects, including pipes, wood and rocks. Luckily they did not encounter any firearms. The reason for such animosity towards the U.S. was we  granted it sanctuary to Venezuela’s former dictator. The agents involved were honored with exception service awards.
  • During the 1950’s, Special Agent’s Al Wong and Mike Torina would be called upon to leave their district (New York) and act in an undercover capacity relative to making purchases of counterfeit money or other obligations of the government. One such assignment was to meet two “guys” from the south at Washington National Airport in order to purchase 93 counterfeit U.S. checks. After the two suspects showed the counterfeit checks to the agents, who had no purchase money for the exchange, the agents gave the “high-sign” to the Washington Field Office back-up agents to move in and arrest the bad guys. The field office agents did not pay attention to the signal. Wong and Torina became more concerned and continued with double-talk until finally the field agents moved in and arrested the two counterfeiters, who were both armed. As the arrests were being made, Wong whispered to the arresting agents to arrest them too for obvious investigative purposes. Wong was not too critical, “they didn’t work these kinds of cases much in Washington.”After the agents were “arrested”, the Washington field agent went home forgetting to unlock the cuffs (he had the only key for a unique set of cuffs) on the two agents. Once the agent returned to office, Wong and Torina were free to return to New York.
  • Special Agent John Desmedt, while assigned to the Secret Service Training Division was charged with the “modernizing” of the weapons and tactical training of the special agents. Desmedt spent several months of research in order to finalize new training standards. He studied the training of the KGB, Israeli security, other country programs, universities and private contractors. A major development determined by Desmedt was the psychological normal response to a threat was not the safest form of protection for the individual. Through intensive training, many “common reactions” had to be redefined for the safety of the person. This new training was paramount to better insure the agents’ ability to carryout their protective and criminal investigative assignments.
  • One of the earliest “criminal profilers”, within the government was Special Agent Kenneth Baker of the Secret Service. Baker obtained his Ed.D in physiological studies and developed his approach to the study of criminal profiles and interrogation techniques with the assistance of other professionals. Baker was called upon to instruct not only Secret Service personnel but also other federal investigative arms of the government. One agency, near Washington, DC, was able to “borrow” him for three years of instruction for their agents. Ken, after retirement from the Service, entered the public sector and helped develop a very lucrative business for private interests. One case involved a very important family who had suspicions that a family member was responsible for a criminal act. Baker was able, through his abilities, to correctly identify the actual perpetrator within the family, not the member originally accused.

THE FBI IS TWEETING

twitter2By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON – When FBI agents recently tracked down suspected financial scammer  R. Allen Stanford in Richmond, Va., the press office at headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue quickly tweeted out a blurb on Twitter to notify the media.

“Actually, ” says FBI spokesman Richard Kolko, “the Wall Street Journal broke it two minutes before I did.”

Twitter. Tweeting. This is no longer J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

Twitter, once a mysterious, free, cutting edge Internet venue for the young, has gone main stream. Very main stream . Sorry kids. Maybe it’s time to find the next hip playground on the Internet.

The social network with the silly name is slowly generating interest in law enforcement circles like the FBI , which opened a Twitter account about two months ago under the name FBIPressOffice. The office said it is also exploring the use of other social networks.

Kolko said the agency is “still getting use to it”, but it’s already sent out more than 415 tweets including press releases with links , notices of missing children or wanted fugitives and breaking news.

A recent press release read: “Iranian Man, company charged with scheme to supply sensitive technology to Iran”. The same day the office put out a notice about a child molester wanted since 2003: “The FBI is still looking for GRANT LAVELLE HUDSON, III.”

So far more than 1,141 people have signed up as “followers”, many of them in law enforcement and the media.
“It goes up every day,” Kolko said.

Twitter, founded in 2006 in San Francisco, allows users to send out text- based “tweets” that are 140 characters or less to people who have signed up to the sender’s account. The social network continues to grow in popularity, but it still ranks behind Facebook, which is number one worldwide, and MySpace, which is number two, according to Compete.com.

But Twitter is gaining traction in federal law enforcement circles including at the Transportation Security Administration, said Chris Battle, managing partner of the Adfero Group Homeland Security Practice, a Washington public relations firm. Battle has written about social communication networks on his company blog Security DeBrief.

“I think it’s an important audience,” said Battle, a former official at Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the DEA. “Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or a specialty niche site like PoliceLink.com , you have a dedicated network of people who care about an issue. When you care about targeting an audience, it doesn’t get any more targeted than this.”

Still, some agencies have been slow to come around, particularly ones that were already a little reluctant to communicate with the public in the more traditional ways, let alone with these cutting-edge communication tools, Battle said.

“Within law enforcement we have quite a ways to go,” he said. ” There’s a bit of a learning curve. Some of the law enforcement agencies and national security organizations need to catch up with the social media.”

Kolko said the biggest benefit of the social network will be when there’s a major breaking story or big crisis and the media blitzes the FBI press office with calls.
“It will have a great application in the event of a crisis,” Kolko said. ” If some major crisis happens, the phones ring off the hook and every reporter is asking the same exact questions. It can take 30 seconds to send the information on Twitter that we’re going to be giving those people.”

Besides press releases and breaking news blurbs, Kolko says he likes to put up information about child molesters and other wanted fugitives.

“It reminds people that we’re still looking,” he said.

Twitter doesn’t appear to be the last stop.

Kolko said the FBI is exploring other venues.
“We’re looking at Facebook and Youtube,” he said. ” Hopefully that’s in the near future.”

My Contacts With Chandra Levy’s Suspected Killer

Sylvia Moreno

Sylvia Moreno

By Sylvia Moreno
for ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — I’ve been asked the question many times by former Washington Post colleagues, by the Spanish-language press and by friends and acquaintances: do I believe Ingmar Guandique killed Chandra Levy?

What I can say for sure is that in letters that Guandique wrote me from federal prison in 2002, 2007 and 2008 and in two hour-long telephone interviews in ’07 and ‘08, is that he steadfastly denied any involvement in the murder of what he called “that girl — what’s her name — Chandra.”

Now the grisly details of the young woman’s murder – supplied by Guandique himself to several unnamed ‘witnesses” cited in a court document – have been revealed by local and federal law enforcement authorities. This week, those officials issued an arrest warrant charging the Salvadoran immigrant with first-degree murder.

The accounts, according to the affidavit filed in support of the arrest warrant, vary slightly but all attest to Guandique’s involvement in one of Washington’s most famous unsolved murders:

  • Guandique told one unnamed witness that he killed a young woman in Washington.
  • To another witness, Guandique said he and two of his friends saw a female jogger in Rock Creek Park with thick, dark hair, jumped her and dragged her from the path into a secluded area, knocking her unconscious. He said they gagged her, then raped her, and that he cut her throat and stabbed her when she woke up during the rape.
  • Guandique told a third witness that he and two of his friends saw a female with curly hair along a Rock Creek Park trail; grabbed her and pushed her into the bushes; choked her to death; then buried her under leaves.
  • To yet another witness and as early as 2002, Guandique admitted to killing Levy, claiming others were involved in the murder too. (A former cellmate of Guandique recounted that story to me during an interview).

My last assignment for The Washington Post, before taking a buy-out offered to employees in mid-2008, was to communicate with Guandique and his local friends and family as part of a 13-part series published last July.

But my involvement in the story began in summer, 2002 when Guandique’s name first surfaced as a potential suspect. I found and interviewed his family in El Salvador and his friends and relatives in D.C.

I wrote to Guandique in federal prison, where he was already being held in September, 2002 for attacking two female joggers in Rock Creek Park, and we corresponded in Spanish for several months. When I resumed the correspondence in 2007, he replied immediately, and after a couple of letters, he consented to a visit, as he had in 2002.

Most of Guandique’s letters began with a salutation hoping that I was in good health and with his desire that I also be “surrounded by my family and friends.” All the letters bore the trademarks of a man with little education: misspellings, grammatical mistakes and nonsensical syntax.

He always maintained his innocence regarding the murder of Levy, but he admitted to breaking into a house in Washington to rob jewelry. He admitted getting into drugs and disregarding his family’s pleas that he focus on work so he could send money home.

He admitted hitting and biting his then-girlfriend in Washington. And he admitted attacking the two women joggers, who managed to break his grasp and run away, for the purpose only, he claimed, of robbing them of their valuables.

He wrote several times that he wanted me to visit him in prison, at one point saying he wanted to “clarify” this Chandra Levy problem hanging over his head.

But neither his attorney, in 2002, nor prison officials, more recently, allowed a face-to-face interview. The Post had to settle for two hour-long recorded telephone interviews, and excerpts of those ran online last summer as part of The Post’s investigative series, “Who Killed Chandra Levy.” To date, I am the only journalist who has communicated directly with Guandique.

Do I believe Ingmar Guandique killed Chandra Levy? Certainly, a man convicted of attacking two women on jogging paths in Rock Creek Park and identified by another woman as stalking her in the park — all within the proximity of where Levy’s remains were found in summer, 2002 – would seem to be a logical and likely suspect. That’s my response to the question.

In a 2002 letter to his mother and grandfather, who live in grinding poverty in rural El Salvador, Guandique asked their pardon for disappointing them by getting into trouble and failing to do what they expected when they borrowed more than $4,000 to get him into the United States illegally. They wanted him to work and send money home to help support more than half a dozen family members living in a dirt-floor shack.

To his brother, Huber, who then lived in suburban Maryland, Guandique wrote that “God is the only one who knows that I am innocent” of Levy’s murder and that one day “God will take care of everything.”

In our last conversation, Guandique said “Like I tell you, I know I don’t have anything to do with that case. I don’t worry about that because I know everything will turn out fine.” Now, a judge and jury will decide that.

The Suspicious LA Supermarket Mogul

George Torres

George Torres

By Jeffrey Anderson
Los Angeles City Beat
One day in October 1998, Ignacio “Nacho” Meza went to his job at Numero Uno grocery store, a block from his family’s home in South L.A., and then vanished.

His disappearance remains a mystery in the barrios surrounding the bustling turquoise-and-pink market on East Jefferson Boulevard. But police have long suspected George Torres, the man behind the Numero Uno grocery store chain, had something to do with it.

By the time Nacho Meza disappeared, government investigators had already spent years watching Torres, trying to bring him down on drug charges. That effort failed. But after Meza went missing, the government swept together the loose ends of its drug investigation ➤ into a 60-page indictment against Torres, including charges of racketeering, public corruption, and conspiracy to murder Nacho Meza – among others. The United States of America v. George Torres-Ramos is scheduled to begin in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on March 10.

The indictment includes a bewildering number of names and charges – robberies, extortions, bribes, frauds – and the government’s assertion that George Torres is friends with murderers and drug runners. Former employees and associates will testify that Torres is a brutal man, even a killer, who sought to protect a criminal enterprise that was both profitable and fearsome.

But will the government be able to prove it?

“I’ve heard the stories, listened to hours of wiretapped conversations and read more reports than I can count,” says the man who will prosecute the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Searight, chief of the office’s narcotics division. “But I have never met a person who can put George Torres in a room with large amounts of drugs or drug money.”

So Searight turned to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, to charge Torres with criminal acts going back some 22 years. According to a transcript of a recent hearing before a skeptical U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson, the result is a list of disparate charges built loosely around a theory Searight has no intention of proving: that Torres financed drug deals or laundered the proceeds of those drug deals through his supermarkets.

The RICO statute is broad, and flexible. It allows prosecutors to stitch together typically white-collar crimes – such as bank fraud or mail fraud – with murder, as long as it all relates to a central racketeering enterprise. Enacted in 1970, RICO was designed to give law enforcement a blunt tool with which to destroy the Mafia.

In the Torres case it is being used as a vehicle to prosecute a wealthy grocery store owner.

Torres will mount a formidable defense. Though his attorneys have refused City Beat’s numerous requests for interviews, it’s clear from court documents they’ll argue that the case against their client is a hodgepodge of unsubstantiated allegations, cobbled together by overzealous investigators obsessed with Torres. They say the stocky 51-year-old grocer is a hardworking father of seven with a rags-to-riches biography that began with a fruit truck and ended up with the Numero Uno grocery store chain, vast swaths of real estate on the south and eastside of L.A., dozens of houses and a Santa Ynez ranch.

FRUIT BOY
In the shadows of downtown, in crime-ravaged South L.A., it’s hard to find a wall, corner store or panel truck that gangs haven’t tagged. Ramshackle Victorian homes, chipped stucco bungalows with bars on the windows and commercial strips of bodegas, check cashing stores and carnicerias: welcome to L.A.P.D.’s Newton Division.

Over 30 years, George Torres built an empire here.

Torres was born in Tijuana in 1957 to farm workers from Michoacan, Mexico. He has lived or worked in this neighborhood most of his life. Because his father, alleged in court documents to be a brothel owner and gun smuggler, urged him to give up school early and take up the family’s produce route, Torres barely reads at a grade-school level. When he was a teenager, he sold fruit from a truck and by going door to door.

“We called him ‘Fruit Boy’ – at least if you knew him well enough you could,” said a woman we’ll call Estella; she asked that we not use her real name. She runs a little business near Maple Avenue, where Torres owns Los Amigos Mall, a yellow- and purple-painted swap meet that includes an arcade, a food court, armed security guards and stalls of vendors reminiscent of a Mexican border town.

What if you didn’t know him well enough? “You’d get your ass kicked,” said Estella.

Torres’ work ethic earned him the approval of the Flores family, owners of El Tapatio grocery stores. In 1974, Torres met his future wife, Roberta, and the couple married in 1976. In the early 1980s, with a loan from Flores and Roberta, Torres rehabbed a liquor store at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and San Pedro Street, and stocked it with meat and produce. He called it Numero Uno. Later he opened 10 others, including stores in Cypress Park and South El Monte.

His stores are known for cleanliness and order, with no tolerance for misconduct or theft. “The employees are clean, not with baggy pants and attitude,” Estella said.

Despite the charges Torres faces, Estella is impressed with him. He’s got more than 600 employees and a chain of stores worth tens of millions of dollars, and some four dozen residential and commercial properties scattered around South L.A.

“I’ve got nothing negative to say,” she said. “If the community asked something of him, he’d respond or send someone on his behalf. He gave out food at Halloween and Thanksgiving. He goes out of his way to serve a low-income community. He had heart for the neighborhood. He opened doors to people, even gang bangers. If they burned a bridge, then it was too bad.”

Nacho Meza fit that description. A member of the Latin Hustlers gang, he had been indicted in federal court in Alabama for drug conspiracy when he disappeared. For years before he went missing, Nacho was Torres’ right-hand man. Torres set him up with Buckets, a car wash near the original Numero Uno market. Nacho, his wife and children lived in a house owned by Torres, in Downey. Law enforcement records state that Nacho used the same private jet service to transport drugs that Torres flew to Vegas to gamble.

The government’s case against Torres turns, in part, on this series of events: In 1997, Nacho’s drug activities blew up in Alabama and he went into debt. Government informants say he got desperate. One of those informants, Nacho’s former drug-dealing associate, says he and Nacho stole half a million in cash from Numero Uno one night in March 1998. The indictment says Torres retaliated by seeking to have Nacho killed.

Once Nacho was gone, Raul Del Real, his former partner at Buckets, became Torres’ right-hand man. With Torres’ help, Del Real, known as “Ra-Ra,” opened his own car wash, called the Real Deal. But like Nacho, who law enforcement documents state was deep into the drug game, Del Real, a member of the Ghetto Boyz gang who used to show up at Numero Uno frequently and meet in private with Torres, was also a dope trafficker – a violent one.

A tape-recorded conversation at L.A. County Jail on December 26, 2002, suggests that Del Real was involved in gang killings. According to a transcript of the conversation, and law enforcement reports, “a known Mexican Mafia shot caller” named Armando Ochoa tells Del Real, “My homeboys killed Lefty and now you guys got one of my homies, so let’s just call it that, right there.” A separate wiretapped conversation shows Del Real pondering his violent nature and telling his sister, “I broke a guy today.”

In 2005, Del Real pleaded guilty in a major L.A.-to-Baltimore drug conspiracy case and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. But not before he agreed to testify against his old friend George Torres.

‘THESE GUYS KEPT THE PEACE’
Estella came up in this neighborhood with Nacho and Ra-Ra; she said she knows of no wrongdoing on their part. While she conceded that Nacho fit a drug dealer profile, she said Ra-Ra, who has told investigators that Torres asked him to kill Nacho, is just a neighborhood character.

“George hired kids off the street,” she said. “They’ve all known each other since they were kids.”

Despite the fact that Del Real and several of his accomplices who are serving lengthy federal prison sentences ran a drug operation out of the Real Deal car wash, Estella said she never saw anything illegal. Indeed, she said, “I felt safer than ever when the guys were over there. Since George was arrested and the guys were sent to prison, the neighborhood has gone to shit. I lost a nephew [to gang violence]. That wouldn’t have happened if the guys were around. They kept the peace.”

Though Estella isn’t alone in focusing on Torres’ largesse more than the gravity of the charges he faces, she’s among his more ardent supporters.

“What is this petty crap about racketeering?” she said. “What is it about our justice system? You can’t come up so fast, so strong and be a Mexican? Everyone knows the United States is not founded on the bible, eh?” Businessmen like George Torres should be left alone, she argued. “People in this community think highly of him because of his accomplishments. He is an excellent father. He is never rude to people. I’ve never seen him dealing drugs, never seen a violent side.”

And then she lays out what could be the defense strategy: George Torres’ only crime is that he’s too kind, too loyal. If anything, she said, Torres is being maligned for his generosity, for reaching out to people like Del Real and Meza.

“They are who they are and we come from where we come from,” she said. “It’s part of the Hispanic character that you don’t get too big for your britches. George hasn’t forgotten his roots. Around here, he’ll be judged on that.”

THE PATRIARCH
Last fall, with his family in the second row of the gallery behind him, George Torres conferred with one of his lawyers in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson. Being stuck behind bars since his arrest in 2007 and watching helplessly as the government seized millions of dollars of his assets has altered Torres’ demeanor. His face betrayed an earnestness that wasn’t there when he was first arrested.

Civil attorney Robert Eisfelder, a longtime advisor to Torres, greeted Torres’ children and Torres’ longtime companion, Dolores Notti, who goes by “Dee Torres” and lives in a house in Arcadia owned by Torres and his wife Roberta. A young boy and girl were seated on either side of Dee Torres, and next to the young boy was Torres’ oldest son Steven, a protégé likely to inherit the Numero Uno chain, but for the fact that he too is charged with violent crimes in aid of the alleged racketeering enterprise.

Before court began, Torres turned and smiled warmly at his family. He offered a nod of encouragement to Stevie and a regretful shrug to his younger son. Torres, who turns 52 this month, still has most of his hair and deep laugh lines. He exudes charisma, even in his white prison jumpsuit with his hands cuffed beneath the table. Under different circumstances it is easy to see how his presence could be comforting, if not mesmerizing to a child.

Steven, or “Stevie,” is Torres’ oldest son by his marriage to Roberta Torres – who was not in court that day. In his gray suit, white shirt and tie, and with his arm draped over his younger half-sibling, he remained impassive throughout the hearing. Police once listened to a father-son conversation on a wiretapped call, during which Torres gave instructions on how to assault someone who threatens the family interests. “Let your daddy take care of this,” Torres told his son, according to a detention-hearing transcript.

Torres has seven children – five by Roberta Torres, who has filed for divorce, and two by Dolores Notti – and provides for them while setting an example of hard work, pride and tenacity.

Yet it was hard to imagine that his children and companion who sat in court that day know and approve of the man the government has portrayed. Their bland facial expressions suggested either they have been coached or are used to hearing (and ignoring) their father described as a bully, a thug and a gangster.

Stevie was born in 1980. Another son, Brian, was born in 1983 and recently earned a masters degree from USC. Daughter Brittany, now 19, Tawny, age 15, and son Brandon, age 14, are all in school. A law enforcer familiar with Torres says he has emphasized education with all of his children. “George has made sure that his children do not end up uneducated like he did,” the law enforcer says. “He’s a very dedicated father.”

In the early days, George and Roberta Torres were true partners, as Roberta helped with bookkeeping and banking. They worked tirelessly as they opened store after store and acquired large tracts of real estate, including industrial and commercial properties and dozens of residential properties in South L.A. and neighboring cities.

With money and success came complications to Torres’ Horatio Alger story. “She put up with a lot,” Estella says of Roberta Torres, who filed for divorce in 2005 after obtaining a restraining order and gaining custody of the couple’s two minor children. “George probably isn’t the easiest person to put up with. Where you have money you have women. But Roberta helped him build his empire. There’s no doubt about that.” Through her lawyer, Roberta Torres declined to comment.

Women, however, are the least of Torres’ troubles. His association with convicted drug-traffickers, gang members and people with ties to the Mexican Mafia and drug cartels has branded him an elusive barrio-style Godfather.

“It’s true that George is a hard worker, and that he is a family man,” says a veteran narcotics detective. “But he just can’t get that ghetto out of him. He’s always hanging with lowlifes because that’s the environment he comes from.”

THE CASE OF THE CASE THAT MISSED
Part of the government’s back file on George Torres involves the notorious Reynoso family, who, according to recently unsealed investigative reports, played a key role in Torres’ imperial rise.

Family patriarch Jose Reynoso was the owner of Reynoso Brothers International, a $37 million import-export company based in City of Industry that made headlines in the mid-1990s in connection with a major drug trafficking prosecution. The family allegedly smuggled more than eight tons of cocaine between 1991 and 1993, working with Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman and Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa cartel. The cocaine made its way through the U.S. via the Reynoso Brothers’ national food distribution network.

In 1993, Jose’s son Rene Cruz Reynoso was convicted of ordering the 1991 killing of Ronald Ordin, a Los Angeles developer and owner of the Central Wholesale Market. The investigation revealed that Ordin had threatened to evict Rene from a commercial space where Rene stored narcotics; a police report claims Rene retaliated by ordering Ordin’s murder in a drive-by on National Boulevard just off the Santa Monica Freeway in West Los Angeles.

That same year, federal prosecutors identified a member of the Reynoso family as having an interest in an Otay Mesa warehouse and canning facility situated near the end of an unfinished, 1,400-foot-long, 65-foot-deep tunnel originating in Tijuana.

Jose Reynoso was convicted in 1995 of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison.

Neither Torres nor Rene Cruz Reynoso were ever charged with drug running. Government documents reviewed by City Beat identify them as alleged co-conspirators who smuggled cocaine in laundry detergent containers and jalapeño chili cans in the 1980s and 1990s, and distributed the drugs via a network of storage facilities and 18-wheel tractor-trailers. Drug Enforcement Administration reports claim that Torres worked with members of the Reynoso family to distribute 1,800 kilos of cocaine per month, at times using small customer-service buses to transport cocaine to his warehouse. Employees who saw or handled the cocaine were few and trusted, the reports state – a process so hermetically sealed that many employees were never aware of cocaine trafficking.

Despite the dramatic claims, Operation Soapbox, as the DEA investigation was called, yielded no criminal drug charges. Nor did subsequent efforts Operation Vacationer and the Robin Hood Investigation. Indeed, the government now concedes it has no evidence of Torres’ “hands-on” involvement in drug trafficking.

Yet recently unsealed wiretap affidavits, transcripts and DEA investigative reports tell a fragmented story of sanctioned killings, drive-by shootings and other violent crimes involving gang members and the drug trade, with Torres – known on the street as “Mexican George” or “G” – in the middle of it all.

The documents also show Torres using walkie-talkie phones that are hard to trace; insisting most of the time on talking in person; running cash businesses and banking with firms allegedly willing to alert him to investigations; avoiding direct contact with drugs or drug money; and allegedly threatening people who were likely to talk to police.

None of that information, however, is damning enough on its own. On the eve of trial, Searight must also rely on “the dirtiest of informants,” as Torres’ lawyers put it, to prove to a jury that Torres is an arch criminal with few peers.

But RICO statutes also permit Searight to reach as far into Torres’ past as he wants, as long he can prove a racketeering enterprise exists. Searight contends Numero Uno markets are both a front and an essential part of such an enterprise.

So far, Searight has not really said what, if not drugs, the enterprise is built on.

THEY GOT SHORTY
Santa Ana winds were blowing last September when a veteran drug task force detective took me on a ride-along through Newton Division, where the imposing Numero Uno warehouse rises like a fortress over this humble neighborhood.

“This is a real high-crime area down here,” the detective said, nodding to a group of young African Americans and Latinos who spotted him as a cop as we drove down a street lined with rundown apartments and bungalows. “George had ➤ some kind of stronghold on it.”

The detective began investigating Torres in connection with suspected drug activity in the 1980s, but is not involved in the current RICO case. We circled the block and parked across from a warehouse that stands behind a 20-foot wall with an automatic metal gate adjacent to Numero Uno on East Jefferson Boulevard. The walls of the warehouse, like the market, are turquoise with pink trim. The letters “G & R” – George and Roberta – are separated by an ampersand resembling a gun.

Rolling down the alley behind the 700 block of East Jefferson we stopped behind an auto yard covered with a tarp and surrounded by a graffiti-covered wall. Nacho Meza ran a hydraulic shop and stored dope here, according to court records. A couple blocks away, we stopped in front of the former home of Derrick “Bo-D” Smith, the drug runner turned government informant who says he and Nacho ripped off Numero Uno for half a million dollars.

In a case built around the Latino community, Smith is a rarity – an African American. He was convicted of drug trafficking in Alabama in 1999 and sentenced to 24 years in federal prison. But his criminal record dates back to the early 1980s, and includes rape, robbery and attempted murder. He’s an informant in the RICO case against Torres. According to recently unsealed investigative reports, Smith contends Meza carried out at least three killings for Torres.

In one, in 1993, a security guard who worked at Torres’ La Estrella Market on San Pedro Street was murdered. Primera Flats gang member Manuel Velasco confessed to the crime, telling detectives he shot the guard over a monetary dispute between he and Torres. (Velasco remains in prison, though he changed his story in 2004, claiming he took the rap for someone else, and that the killing had nothing to do with a monetary dispute between him and Torres.)

After the murder, the government’s case states, Torres and Meza told store employees not to speak to the police. Smith has told investigators that Nacho admitted to killing Primera Flats member Edward Carpel and injuring three others a month later, in a retaliatory drive-by shooting on East 23rd Street, around the corner from La Estrella.

Later that year, Playboys gang member Jose “Shorty” Maldonado came to Numero Uno and made extortion demands of Torres. Smith says he was at a hamburger stand outside Numero Uno with Meza and Torres when Torres turned to Meza and told him to “take care” of Shorty. Meza’s brother Jesus Meza testified before a federal grand jury on March 1, 2005, that Nacho did indeed kill Shorty, in February 1994, as Shorty was leaving a barbershop – located on property owned by Torres. Jesus testified that he drove the getaway car.

According to the government, ballistics show the same gun was used to kill Carpel and Shorty Maldonado. According to police affidavits, Smith further claims that Nacho Meza killed a third man at Torres’ behest, Roderick Chapman, in 1996.

Smith’s statements to police begin to illuminate the government’s charge that Torres eventually had Nacho murdered: Smith contends that in March 1998 he and Nacho robbed Numero Uno of $550,000 so that Nacho could pay a drug debt to former Numero Uno security guard Jose Angulo, who was dealing drugs directly for Torres. In the upside-down world of the case against George Torres, it seems Angulo knew the drug debt, which was ultimately payable to Torres, was settled with cash stolen from Torres – but he kept the money anyway.

Government documents suggest Torres smelled a rat: Interviewed after the robbery, he told detectives he suspected a former employee and that he and his associates “would take care of it themselves,” according to police reports of the interview.

A year later, on May 25, 1999, the FBI interviewed Angulo, who admitted he was Nacho Meza’s drug supplier, and confirmed that Nacho settled his drug debt shortly after the Numero Uno robbery occurred. Angulo told the FBI he never returned the money to Torres, even though he knew it belonged to him. Angulo disappeared on August 31, 1999, and has not been seen since.

FRAUD AND CORRUPTION
Searight has yet to show his full hand, but the indictment also accuses Torres of major tax fraud—alleges he skimmed $500,000 a year from his own stores’ cash registers, and extorted money from illegal immigrants who worked for him or whom he thought stole from him. The indictment also states that Torres attempted to bribe public officials—in one case attempting to bribe former L.A. City planning commissioners Steven Carmona and George Luk into securing approval for a beer and wine permit at his Alvarado Street store. In addition to a $15,000 check, the indictment states, Torres gave Carmona a GMC pickup truck and free use of his downtown condo on West 6th Street so that Carmona could qualify as a resident of that district to become a planning commissioner. In a 2004 conversation, recorded on a wiretap, Carmona and Luk agreed to ask Torres for an additional $10,000. The government claims the pair would give that money to an “unidentified official in the Los Angeles City Council” in return for support of Torres’ alcohol permit.

A 2007 Los Angeles Times story also reported that a career prosecutor in the office of City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo received pressure from Delgadillo, in 2001, to drop criminal charges against Torres for an improper demolition of low-income apartments. The prosecutor wrote in a memo, “Rocky said he was getting a lot of pressure about this case.” Torres ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in the demolition case.

When a friend chides Torres about seeking favors from public officials, a wiretap transcript shows him responding: “Hey, pimp! What the fuck? Let me tell you something. If I did it the right way, I’d be broke, you know? You know what’s up, pimp?”

Torres’ talk appears to be more than just idle boasting. According to recently unsealed investigative reports, Albert Del Real, a convicted drug dealer, former Numero Uno employee and brother of Raul Del Real, says he saw former L.A. City Councilman Mike Hernandez receive “stacks of money” from Torres in the 1990s. Then-City Councilman Richard Alatorre brought his vehicle to Torres’ warehouse to get serviced, leading Del Real to tell investigators he believed that Torres, who did not provide automotive services, was doing favors for Alatorre.

Alatorre and Hernandez, neither of whom returned calls for this story, have never been charged with wrongdoing in connection with Torres. They remain City Hall fixtures. Alatorre, who pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion in 2001, is an influential lobbyist and board member of L.A.’s Best, a nonprofit that operates out of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office. Hernandez is assistant chief of staff for Councilman Bernard Parks and Councilwoman Jan Perry.

Such allegations hearken to a highly publicized national scandal involving Horacio Vignali, Torres’ former real estate partner. They also raise questions about how far Torres’ political reach was, and whether that reach helped keep him out of trouble.

Torres and Vignali, formerly two of three principles in a real estate company called Tovicep, Inc., were exposed as longtime targets of federal drug investigations in a 2002 congressional report on Pardongate, the White House scandal arising from President Bill Clinton’s grant of clemency for Vignali’s son, convicted drug trafficker Carlos Vignali Jr. The report examined revelations that, in the 1990s, Vignali was a big financial contributor who enlisted numerous politicians, including L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca, then U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (then a California assemblyman) to lobby Clinton for the clemency. Hernandez and Alatorre were among those who lobbied for Vignali Jr.’s release.

DEA documents surfaced in the report that portrayed Torres, Vignali Jr. and Vignali, a billboard and parking lot magnate, as part of a drug trafficking ring from the 1980s and 1990s. Vignali has never been charged with a crime. But according to recently unsealed informants’ statements, he is responsible for introducing Torres to such politicians as Hernandez and Baca, who told Pardongate investigators that he knew Torres “to be a legitimate businessman.”

Baca is not the only law enforcer Torres is alleged to have befriended. According to two sources familiar with the matter and DEA investigative reports, L.A.P.D. Sergeant Peter Torres (no confirmed relation to George Torres) ran his 2001 campaign for city council out of an office in George Torres’ swap meet. DEA reports of informant interviews also state that Sergeant Torres associated with Raul and Albert Del Real, both convicted drug traffickers with ties to George Torres.

A wiretapped conversation from December 2003 shows Raul Del Real telling his brother Albert that he saved him from getting arrested – by getting Sergeant Torres to vouch for him. In 2005, Albert Del Real told investigators he once saw his brother Raul hand money to Peter Torres at the Real Deal Carwash. Peter Torres declined to be interviewed for this story. L.A.P.D. officials said he is assigned to West Los Angeles, but is not on active duty.

EL DIABLO
In July 2007, shortly after Torres was indicted, a former Numero Uno employee contacted me and offered to describe his old boss, known to fellow workers as “El Diablo.” The employee said he worked as a butcher for four years at various Numero Uno stores from the mid- to late-’90s. He produced documentation to prove his employment and his identity, and asked that his name not be published.

During a two-hour, taped interview, he spoke candidly through an interpreter. He said he has never talked to law enforcers about George Torres.

Like the employees expected to testify at Torres’ trial, the butcher felt that Torres was tinkering with the store’s payroll – often at employee expense. “They would congratulate me on getting a raise, but then my paycheck would be the same,” said the butcher, a short man with a large head and large hands. “They’d push for more work, but the pay stayed the same.”

A 58-year-old journeyman who spent time in a Mexican jail for marijuana possession, and who since has been deported, the butcher has unsettling memories of Torres. “George, he was a real act,” the butcher said, recalling days when Torres would berate employees over the store PA system.

Yet unlike younger employees who cowered before Torres, the butcher said he displayed an irreverent streak when talking to the boss. Torres, he says, took his back talk in stride. “Not everyone saw him as a good boss. He was not like a homie. There would be 15 people ready to work, and he’d say, don’t punch in, go straight to work. Then, two hours later he’d let you punch in. I’d punch in when I arrived, no matter what he said. He’d say, ‘What’s up with you, old man?’ I’d say, ‘What’s up with you, you bastard? You’re getting rich off us.’ He’d just pat me on the back and laugh.”

For a time, the butcher lived in a house across the street from Numero Uno with a number of other employees. He described the house as a crash pad, with people coming and going amid minor drug use. Employees also hung out in a trailer next door, the butcher said. He recalls having a brush with the law and Torres insisting he take a drug test. When the butcher passed his drug test, Torres insisted he cheated and that he take another. “I said ‘You’re crazier than I am. Why don’t you get tested first and I’ll pay for them both?’”

The butcher also noticed that Raul Del Real and Nacho Meza had access to parts of Torres’ warehouse off-limits to other employees. Because the butcher could not discern any real management experience in either man – and because Del Real wasn’t an actual employee – this made him suspicious. “I thought, what’s wrong with George? He had all these kids as managers and they didn’t know anything.”

Del Real in particular, the butcher said, was too pushy and inexperienced to be taken seriously. “He was bad blood,” the butcher said. “He was cut from the same mold as George. Everybody knew what was the story there. We all did.”

One day in 1998, after police visited the market and asked Torres some questions, the butcher said to him, “Look, I know how you do your stuff. And if it’s not you, it’s your people. You cannot fool everybody.” Torres was unfazed, the butcher said, and replied, “How do you know, you

old fart?”

The disappearance of Nacho Meza is what sticks with the butcher the most. He recalled seeing Nacho return to work for the last time in October 1998. “Then two days later, people were asking about him. His mother was coming to the store asking about him. People at the store would go, ‘We haven’t seen him either.’ Nacho’s mom was crying on the street, asking if anyone had seen her son.”

The butcher said that Del Real’s reaction to the disappearance did not make sense. “Raul was so nonchalant. Come on, Nacho disappears, and Raul doesn’t say anything? They were buddies.”

Theories about Nacho’s disappearance abound. Recently unsealed documents suggest that Del Real and Meza had a falling out. Torres’ lawyers contend that Del Real, a key witness for the prosecution in the upcoming RICO trial, most likely killed Nacho.

Police affidavits identify Manuel Reynoso, the brother-in-law of Rene Cruz Reynoso, as a guy who might know something. On October 13, 2004, police put up a reward notice on the porch of Torres’ house in Downey, where Nacho used to live. Manuel Reynoso, owner of Rey & Rey Produce, was living there at the time. Within hours, according to a police affidavit, Reynoso called Torres and asked if there were problems. Torres advised Reynoso to say nothing if questioned by the police, and to never call him on the phone again. “I think it’s about that friend,” Reynoso said. Torres replied: “I think … who else?”

The butcher’s favorite theory is that an excavation at Numero Uno to make room for a new meat locker was not merely coincidental to Nacho’s disappearance. He and a colleague would talk about the concrete removal that was underway as they came to work each day. Though they have no detailed knowledge, they wonder.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Searight gets impatient with such talk. “I’ve heard all the theories,” he told me last April, declining to talk about the case in detail. “Meza was burned. He went into a meat grinder. He’s buried in cement .…”

If nothing else, the fate of Nacho Meza is a cautionary tale. Given the twisted, violent history swirling around Numero Uno in the rough barrios of South L.A., it is inevitable that, guilty or innocent, a cloud will hover over George Torres, the longtime target of failed drug investigations. Now that Searight has built an adventurous RICO case against Torres, Torres’ freedom and fortune will rest in the hands of a jury in the coming weeks.

Some might have a hard time buying it.

Not the butcher, however. “We have a saying in Mexico,” he said at the end of our interview back in 2007. “If the river is making noise, it’s because there’s water in it.”

Los Angeles City Beat

reprinted with permission

Some Agents Critical of “DEA” Show

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — The show “DEA” on Spike TV has all the hallmarks of a public relations bonanza for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Slick editing, heart-thumping action and heroic portrayals of gun-toting agents.

In fact, the DEA credited  the first season with generating more than 13 million hits on its website and helping bolster its image and recruiting efforts.

But some agents — and some retired ones– aren’t so gung ho. In fact, they’re downright critical of the one- hour show, which launched its second  season Feb. 10 and is being produced by Size 12 Productions and Al Roker Entertainment – yes, Al Roker as in the Today show’s morning jester.

For one, the critics say they’re uncomfortable seeing the inner workings of the agency exposed on tv, and they’re none too happy watching potential informants on the tube even if faces are blurred and the informants sign waivers to grab 15 minutes of questionable fame.

“I wouldn’t let anybody do that with my informants,” said one veteran DEA agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

On top of all that, current and former agents say the show oversimplifies the agency’s mission by showing quick hit cases –or what’s known in the business as buy-busts — instead of the agency’s main staple: long-term investigations involving big-time national and international drug traffickers. Those cases often involve months or even years of investigative work.

Lawrence Gallina, former chief of domestic operations for the DEA, who retired from the agency in 2002, commented on the show, saying he fears that people who know little about the DEA “may come up with the wrong impression of what the agency does.”

Admittedly, he said, it’s part of the DEA’s mission to work with local law enforcement tasks forces on smaller cases that impact the community. “It’s an important function, but not the primary function” of DEA, which is to “bring to justice international and national major drug trafficking organizations.”

Whatever the shortcomings, DEA officials say the show is a good thing.

“We’re trying to be more transparent in the 9/11 era, ” says DEA agent Rich Isaacson, a spokesman for the Detroit office. “The DEA is trying a lot of different projects to get our name out in the public eye, similar to what the FBI has been doing for years.”

The agency is promoting the second season with Hollywood hype.

In a recent press release, special agent in charge Mary Irene Cooper, DEA’s chief of Congressional Affairs, said: “If you liked the first season of ‘DEA’, you’ll love the second season. Season II delivers more episodes, more action, more dope and more money than viewers have ever seen before. You’ll have a front row seat to DEA’s hard-charging, relentless special agents risking their lives for the mission. They’ll captivate you with their gritty determination and leave you wanting more.”

Last year’s show was in Detroit and featured DEA agents working with local law enforcement on a drug task force. This season, the show will take place in the Northern New Jersey area – but not actually in Newark itself.

DEA agent Douglas S. Collier, a spokesman for the New Jersey Division, says this season, unlike last year’s, will show a different side of the DEA.

“We’ll show we’re all moms and dads and uncles and sisters and brothers,” he said. ” You’ll see more of the human side of the agents and task force officers.”

Not all the DEA divisions around the country are clamoring to be featured in the show. In fact, after the first season in Detroit, sources said, some divisions chiefs around the country – particularly ones headed by old-school agents – wanted nothing to do with being featured on the show. The producers finally got the New Jersey division to bite.

There’s a big reason why the show has focused on small “buy-busts” instead of big investigations.

The Justice Department has forbidden the DEA from exposing any cases on TV that would end up in federal court. So all the cases on the show go to state court, where often times, the cases are smaller and more local.

Agent Collier doesn’t dispute the criticism that the show does not fully show the breadth of the DEA’s mission. But he said considering the constraints of doing state cases, the agents had some significant busts.

In all, he said, the show does a good job of showing the dedication and “hard work of the men and women of the DEA.”

Shows featuring law enforcement are nothing knew. There’s the best known one, “Cops”, which first aired in 1989, and often features small time crimes. And ABC just launched a show “Homeland Security USA “, which has been less than impressive.

Lawrence Kobilinsky, a professor of forensic science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York said law enforcement agencies like the exposure.

“These agencies thrive on public relations, especially the FBI,” he said. ” Media attention is everything to these groups. There’s a lot of attention paid to the FBI and not a lot to ATF or DEA. I can understand how they would want a show like this.”

William Coonce, former special agent in charge of the DEA Detroit office, said: “I’m a believer in publicity to get the message of what we do in terms of hard work. We do a good job and we’re corruption free. And I believe we should pump ourselves up.”

But he said there should be limits and the DEA should “not just do it for the Hollywood splash that some shows do.”

And even the DEA agent who was critical of the show exposing potential informants, said he sees an upside to the program.

“It’s good to get your name out there,” he said, particularly when it comes to getting Congressional funding for the agency.

” I actually think they should have done something like this years ago. My thing is the FBI is always out in front, even when they get bad publicity, they spin it.”

But another DEA agent simply sees little benefit to the show.

“A lot of it, I thought it was kind of hokey,” he said. “Basically what good can come of it?”

The show airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Spike TV

The Anthrax Suicide, Washington Espionage and More

Joseph Persichini Jr./ticklethewire.com photo

Joseph Persichini Jr./ticklethewire.com photo

WASHINGTON – One recent morning, shortly after this city had come down from the high of a historic inauguration, Joseph Persichini Jr., head of the FBI’s Washington field office, sat down with ticklethewire.com editor Allan Lengel. Persichini, a 33-year veteran of the FBI, took charge of the Washington office in 2006. In crisp white shirt and yellow tie, and his blackberry and navy blue FBI coffee mug close at hand, he talked about Chinese espionage in the Washington area, how his office sorted through intelligence tips leading up to the inauguration and the perplexing anthrax investigation and how he felt when anthrax suspect Dr. Bruce Ivins committed suicide:  “It wasn’t the ending we wanted.” The following answers were condensed and the questions were edited for clarity.

Q. In the anthrax case, obviously it took a long time to solve. How frustrating was that for the first few years?.
A. Any case of that magnitude that you can’t solve immediately is frustrating to any investigator. We all wanted to bring the case to a logical conclusion and work it as fast as we could. This case brought us challenges that were never faced by law enforcement ever in the history of the world. Nobody had ever used bacillus anthracis as a weapon to murder people. There was no scientific analysis based on anthrax, no DNA about anthrax. The potential subjects were the world. How do you start from there and whittle all that down?
Q. There was a lot of talk that the scientists were never going to narrow it down to a person. Were you always confident the science would catch up?
A. Well, we were optimistic. We knew it was a piece of the puzzle we needed. But it didn’t stop us from pursuing it as a normal homicide investigation. We didn’t know if the science would come through. It was explained during the press conference about anthrax how eventually the DNA for bacillus anthracis was developed. That was a major factor in coming up with our conclusion
Q. I don’t know how much you can say about scientist Steven Hatfill. Obviously he was considered a ‘person of interest’– as the attorney general had said before. Was there any lesson learned from looking at him?
A. I’m not going to talk about Steven Hatfill. Nobody would condone any type of leak. As I said in the very beginning, the world was our suspect and you begin to eliminate the potential subjects. We had many potential subjects.
Q. The Ft. Detrick lab was always tops on the list.
A. I’m not going to get into the internal side of it. Our first impression, I’m sure all of the world thought…this is terrorism. Any time you have a case of that magnitude there are lessons learned and it’s an experience you hope as we mature, all of us learn how to approach a case of that magnitude again. It was uncharted waters.

Q. Some politicians on the Hill were criticizing the FBI. Was it hard not to step up and say ‘We’ve really got something cooking, we just can’t talk about it? Essentially you took the criticism.
A. I’m not going to talk about politics. It’s no different than Ted Kaczynski and the decision to print the manifesto . You’ve got to keep focusing on your job and you have to understand, everybody was frustrated. If you’re a victim’s family member you want to see progress, you want to bring closure to this. So did we. People that were criticizing, you have to understand, they didn’t have the facts. There is no investigation that we’re going to lay out our investigative plan, it’s just counterproductive to what we do. Everybody looks at the prism with a different perspective.
Q. Were family members of the vicitms understanding about the pace of the investigation or were they critical?
A. We established relationships with them at the outset and we tried to keep them abreast as much as possible without revealing our investigation to them. I think for the most part they understood that. They knew we couldn’t lay out our whole case, our whole strategy. I’m sure everybody goes through a sea of emotions in a case like this. I used to say to them: “I’m not walking in your shoes, I can try to be compassionate, I can try to understand and we’ll do the best we can.” I think the moment of truth was obviously on the day we revealed the conclusion of the case, with the director spending over an hour or so with them, sitting down, and the prosecutors and investigators going through the case in its entirety.
Q. Are you convinced Bruce Ivins was the guy and Hatfill was not the guy?
A. Without a question. Dr. Bruce Ivins used anthrax to murder those individuals.
Q. When he committed suicide, was that a frustration? Was it shocking?
A. It wasn’t the ending that we wanted. This team was prepared to take its case in chief and present it to a jury of his peers. That’s our job and that’s what we wanted to do. We would have presented that to the grand jury and taken the case to trial.
Q. Your reaction when you first heard he committed suicide?
A. Frustrating. Again concerned about the team , the families. Where’s closure? We knew he was the subject. He obviously knew that. How would we have closure to this case.? How can we notifiy the public? There’s a sense of , you know, they need to know what happened here.
Q. When he committed suicide, it didn’t get out right away. Was there some talk of “how do we break the news?”
A. I think that conversation began immediately with all parties, the investigative team, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice, headquarters , FBI , Postal Service, determining what we can and cannot say. And how is it that you close an investigation of this magnitude that had global implications?
Q. Did you personally call some of the family members of the victims about this?
A. The team did.
Q. Their reaction?
A. I’m not going to speak for them. Again, I’m not walking in their shoes. It’s been a long road for them. And that grieving process is different for everybody. We wanted to inform them as soon as possible. But I know there was a gap between the suicide and when we could physically get everybody here to Washington to brief them. And that really was why it took so long to go public because we wanted to brief them first.
Q. Were you in on the briefing.
A. Yes.
Q. And their reaction at that time?.
A. Again, different reactions. Some were relieved to to hear the progress that had been made that we couldn’t tell them about. So they heard exactly what we were doing, how we were approaching it, how we would have brought it to trial and how we would have presented the case. Everybody grieved different.
Q. Was it an emotional meeting?
A. Yes.
Q. People crying?
A. Yes. Emotional for everybody. It’s not over. That grieving process continues. There’s an important lesson learned reaching out to the victims. We did a pretty good job. We wanted them to be informed. We wanted them to understand what we were trying to do.
Q. Do you look back at some things that you guys did and say, “Oh boy, we could have saved a lot of time.”
A. That’s very difficult. Things were developing, the science was developing. The science again being a pivotal point; it took us a long time. How long did it take us to develop DNA in the world, and now all of a sudden, we, within a couple years, developed a DNA profile of anthrax. It was never ever done before in history. Even though it took a long time, that’s a phenomenal development by the scientists who were working with us, our FBI laboratory. You had agents that were working on the case as investigators who were scientists, who then went to the FBI lab in a promotional aspect and continued to work on the development of the DNA. That’s good work.

Q. Bruce Ivins’ name came up early on in the investigation because nearly everbody at Ft. Detrick was polygraphed and his polygraph came up a little irregular at that time. Was there any indication that you should have gotten back to him sooner?
A. I won’t talk about that.

Q. About the inauguration. How do you think things went?
A. I think it was just a very successful day. We concentrated on inauguration day, but you know we actually had 4 days with the concert on Sunday . I think the nation’s capital rose to the occasion, and I mean that by all aspects of the nation’s capital, the law enforcement community, the business community.
Q. During that time obviously there were little scares that came up. For one, the Somalia terrorist rumors. Were you getting a lot of intelligence coming from overseas in relation to the inauguration?
A. This was a global event, so this wasn’t just an event in Washington D.C. The eyes of the world were upon us. The first African-American president of the United States was being sworn in. So I think the law enforcement community, not just here in the region, but nationally and internationally, they all were very cognizant of the heightened awareness present. It’s evident that as we became closer and visitors began to arrive here, tips came in, information came in, intelligence came in, information from our partners nationally, police departments, fusion centers across the country and of course the intelligence community. Bulletins had gone out on awareness and yes, intelligence did increase as we got closer and closer to Jan 20.
Q. It must have been massive, the amount of intelligence. How do you sort through all that in an orderly fashion?
A. Again, I go back to the progress of the FBI since 9/11 and our ability to gather intelligence, analyze that intelligence and then disseminate that intelligence. The stream of intelligence is very robust. Information coming in either from the fusion centers or the intelligence community is coordinated either at the headquarters level or here at the field office level. We had the capability of gathering it and then disseminating, which is important. You may get a lead that comes in and says well, we need to check out an individual in Detroit. Well that’s not a lead that we would do. Here we would automatically send leads to our Detroit division. We had a conference call with all the field office leadership across the country and advised them what the latest threat matrix was, and that each field office was to have staff available and ready if leads or investigative assignments were delegated to each one of those divisions. Everybody understood what we were facing across the FBI, not just nationally but internationally.

Q. There were reports of a lot of chatter in some of the white Supremacist chat rooms.
A. I think again, looking across the nation, that becomes a national domestic terrorism issue. All of the fusion centers , all the law enforcement community in the nation were briefed on what we call the vulnerabilities. What is the threat? We use the term “know your domain”. If you think there’s a threat, we’re asking people to go out and re-contact sources, maybe review cases and determine whether or not people had seen an increase of activity. As I sit here today, we had some increase of information, whether it’s an Internet threat or just basic conversation between groups, which is not illegal. Just remember, there’s a First Amendment here, freedom of speech. Anybody can have a conversation, that’s not illegal. So obviously we’re looking for information that if somebody believes somebody has the ability or has expressed an interest to take some sort of action , which would be illegal or to harm someone.
Q. In the past, there’s been some criticism of the FBI not sharing information. Were there any issues that came up during inauguration?
A. I think that’s probably one of the highlights. Our relationship with the leadership with the law enforcement here in this community is absolutely fantastic.  Again, we’ve been planning for this for six months. There were 23 different sub-committees, there was an executive steering committee. The Secret Service , because it was a national special security event, was responsible for the planning of the entire event. I can tell you up to the days, starting Friday with the train ride, the leadership talked every day. I started the morning talking to (D.C. police) Chief Lanier and usually our last call at 10 o clock at night was with Chief Lanier or (U.S. Park Police chief) Sal Lauro or (U.S. Capitol police chief) Phil Morse. Intelligence, I can tell you, was flowing by the minute, by the day,  between all of our agencies.
Q. Beyond the inauguration, in terms of Afghanistan  and Iraq,  you have agents in those countries. Are you getting helpful intelligence from there either through sources or raids or gathering of documents?
A. There’s a lot going on in that arena, both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our  bomb technicians from FBI are there. They’re responding to all the bombings that are going off, that evidence is all coming into the FBI and the FBI lab so that a data base is being formed with just all evidence as it relates to bombings. Any time there’s any kind of activity across the world and they recover evidence , it can now be inputted into the data base. Intelligence both from the intelligence community and the activity both in Iraq and Afghanistan is being filtered through agencies. Our legal attaches in Baghdad and Kabul are working closely with the partners. That’s very very important on the war on terror as you would say. Significant advancements have been made.
Q. Do you feel any of the intelligence that’s been gathered there has helped prevent terrorist acts here in the states.
A. I won’t say whether there’s been something specific. As you always say, one small piece of intelligence may help put the whole puzzle together. That constant robust feeding of intelligence and analyzing that intelligence, there’s no finite end to that. That’s constant. That helps all of us, not just the FBI, it helps all of us across the world assess what the capabilities are, whether it’s al Qaeda or al-Shabab, or whoever other terrorist groups are out there.

Q. What about in terms of getting wiretaps in Afghanistan or Pakistan?
A. That I couldn’t give you.

Q. In terms of the FBI’s role in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, do you see it expanding?
A. Again, our presence there is greater than just our legal attache so we have training aspects, we have investigations. Here in the Washington field office we’re responsible for some of the fraud investigations as it relates to rebuilding funds in Iraq, so I think anywhere across the globe, especially in nations that are developing now, our presence is important.
Q. In the last three or four years this office and headquarters has had a lot of public corruption cases. Do you attribute that to a shifting of resources or is some of it just luck that certain things unraveled like the Jack Abramoff case?

A. Public corruption is one of the our number one criminal priorities in this division and will continue to be. We burn more public corruption resources than anywhere in the nation. We have about 55 agents working public corruption here in the nation’s capital. You mentioned we have the Abramoff case, we’re doing a lot of work in the foreign corrupt practices act and anti-trust cases.

Q. Can we expect some indictments this year in public corruption?
A. I can say we have resources committed to it and obviously an indictment is up to the grand jury, but as we move forward on cases I expect some statistical accomplishments and some judicial action to take place.
Q. In terms of espionage here in Washington, we traditionally think of Russians and Chinese. Are they still the key groups?
A. Espionage is here. It’s present. I think what’s important also is economic espionage. We continue to be a government that invests in more R and D (research and development) than anywhere else in the world. There are countries, there are companies, there are entities, that are always looking at stealing the R and D that we are investing in this country. We are in the nation’s capital. We have the largest military contractors in the nation here doing a lot of sensitive work. We have a very robust espionage group here in WFO (Washington Field Office). They’re doing great work.
Q. Have you made some espionage cases?
A. We made some case against some individuals from China who were paying for classified material. L.A. just made another case. It’s out there and we’re making cases and developing intelligence about the methods of technological  transfers and R and D theft.

Q. The cases that have come up so far, have they involved China and…?
A. Primarily China; still a country that is very interested in our technology and our military development.
Q. And the Russians. Are they players anymore?

A. We have a host of target countries that continue to be interested in classified material of the United States government.
Q. When you talk about a host, are we talking about three or six?
A. I’m not going to get into who. It’s a limited group.

Q. Do you feel sometimes the bad guys have access to some technology, and law enforcement hasn’t quite caught up?
A. I think it’s a challenge.

Q. How has the FBI acclimated to such venues as Facebook and Twitter?
A. You’ve got Voice Over Internet, you have so many different mediums out there whether it’s Facebook…. Ten years ago if you went out and did a search warrant of a residence — and maybe it was a drug case — odds are you went in, you did a search you walked out with possibly physical evidence , whether it would be drugs or preparation equipment or scales or whatever; never thought about a computer or a PDA or a Blackberry or a fax . Today when we do a search, that search now includes so many different modes of communications, and that’s a challenge. So you’re the agent looking at that case and now you have maybe eight different methods of communication to analyze to make your case. All the new modes of communication are obviously a challenge for us.

Q. When you think in the past year or so when you think about communication among bad guys, has anything surprised you?
A. We were having a discussion about this. People are talking about gaming on the Internet. I’m talking about, you can go online and you and another friend and another friend can go on line and you can be at your house and your friend can be at their house and you’re doing a battle game, whatever kind of battle game it is. You can use Voice Over Internet while you’re playing this game, you can be communicating with each other, and you ‘re thinking to yourself, that’s a mode I can communicate with. To me that’s a challenge, that’s phenomenal to think, here we have people sitting in their own residence playing a video game with somebody in China or maybe down the street. As progress of technology grows, the challenge of us capturing that grows.
Q. As for mortgage fraud, are you seeing it peak, or is it still growing?

A. I think we haven’t even reached the peak of where we’re going with mortgage fraud. Right now, we’re analyzing as you know. Northern Virginia communities were hit the hardest.
Q. Do you hope to get more resources to deal with this?
A. Yes, I think that’s important. I know at the headquarters level, if you’re looking at the magnitude of the problems. .. it’s going to be important to get some commitments and additional resources to take a look at this.
Q. What’s your future at the FBI?
A. I’ve been here 33 years. I love coming to work everyday.. As long as the director allows me to stay in this position, I’d like to stay. Obviously we have mandatory retirement at 57, I’m not that old yet. It is an honor and privilege to work with the men and women of this division who just knock it out of the box everyday and the inauguration is probably a good example of that.

Cases To Watch For In ’09

  • By Allan Lengel/ticklethewire.com
  • Ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich(Chicago) Now this guy knows how to put on a show. He toured the New York talk show scene while the Illinois Senate was preparing to behead him. Now he’s an ex-gov, but don’t expect him to tone down his act. And don’t expect U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to back down. Of for that matter, Pres. Obama  to replace the Republican-appointed Fitzgerald with a Dem-appointment in midst of this mess. More drama to come. No trial date yet
  • Bernie Madoff

    Bernie Madoff

  • Bernie Madoff(New York) If someone in New York ever decides to sell Bernie Madoff piñatas, they’ll make a fortune. And speaking of fortunes: Where’d Bernie hide all the cash? This story has more drama than a Meryl Streep movie. Expect lots more tears, lots more whining and revelations about lots of rich people – or make that former rich people – some who have been left with as much savings as a 7-11 clerk working his way through college. A Jan. 12 preliminary exam set.
  • Barry Lamar Bonds(San Francisco) – We love him. We hate him. We loved to watch him hit home runs even to the backdrop of fans booing. But will he strike out in court? Trial for perjury and obstruction of justice charges in the steroid scandal is set for March 2.
  • Bernie Kerik

    Bernie Kerik

    Bernie Kerik -(New York) No one has gone from hero to heel quicker than Bernie Kerik – unless maybe you count ex- Sen. John Edwards. Kerik was a centimeter away from becoming Secretary of Homeland Security with the help of a ringing endorsement from pal Rudy Giuliani. Now of days, in the law enforcement field, he’d be lucky to get a security guard job at Popeyes fried chicken on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. He faces charges of tax fraud and making false statements regarding the background checks for his appointment as head of Homeland Security.

  • Rep. William Jefferson

    Rep. William Jefferson

    Ex-Rep. William J. Jefferson(Alexandria, Va.) This public corruption case has had more delays than O’HARE International Airport during a snowstorm. The FBI first raided his home in New Orleans and Washington on Aug. 3, 2005. Then agents raided his office in May 2006 and opened a can of worms that tied them up with a bundle of legal challenges in court. Early on in the case, the Congressman explored a possible plea agreement. It never went very far. Now he’s trying to appeal the government to death. No trial date yet in this bribery-public corruption case. But odds are the trial will finally happen sooner than later. Question is: Is the case as sexy now that Jefferson is an ex-Congressman?

  • Five Blackwater Security Guards (Washington) – The feds say these guys loaded and shot Iraqi citizens like they were in a pinball arcade. The guards say they have a defense. Look for a major knock out, dragged out battle here. These guys obviously know how to fight. We’ll see how their attorneys do. The judge just set jury selection for Jan. 29,  2010. Until then, expect lots of motions and battles in court.
  • Mayor Larry Langford

    Mayor Larry Langford

    Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford – (Birmingham, Ala.) When you see this indictment you might think someone got a little “count” happy. Langford and two co-defendants face a 101-count indictment. It might be easier to count 101 Dalmations. Hard to imagine how long it will take a jury to plow through those counts. Then again, with so many, at least one has got to stick. The mayor faces bribery,fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns at trial, which is set for May 4.

  • John Gotti Jr.

    John Gotti Jr.

    John Gotti Jr.(New York) This wiseguy knows his way around a courtroom, just like dad, who died in prison in 2002. On August 5, he was arrested on conspiracy charges in Florida in connection with a major cocaine ring and the slayings of three New Yorkers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A few months later, the case was transferred to New York, his home turf. A “Sammy the Bull” like-government snitch – just like dad had – could prove troublesome for the cocky Gotti. No trial date set.

  • Rep. Rick Renzi

    Rep. Rick Renzi

    Ex-Rep. Rick Renzi (Tucson) This guy is stealing the playbook from Rep Jefferson, invoking an oddly named law: Speech or Debate Clause. He’s charged in a land swap deal that involves charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, extortion and insurance fraud. His attorneys are filing multiple motions saying that feds violated the Speech or Debate Clause (like Jefferson), which protects speech and documents related to legislative activity. Trial is set for March 24

  • State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson

    State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson

  • Ex-Mass. State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson – (Boston) It’s never good when the feds have a photo of you slipping some bribe money under your sweater and into your bra. It’s a tough image to shake loose from a juror’s mind during trial. Apparently Wilkerson was the target of an FBI sting in which she allegedly took $23,500 in bribes. She resigned in November. No trial date. A status conference is set for Jan. 22.

Iraqi Spies in Motown And More

Eric Straus-photo/ticklethewire.com

Eric Straus-photo/ticklethewire.com

DETROIT – One recent afternoon, in this hardscrabble city, in a downtown office high rise overlooking the Detroit River, assistant U.S. Atty. Eric Straus, chief of the criminal and national security division, sat down with ticklethewire.com editor Allan Lengel. Straus, a 21-year veteran of the office, talked about a host of subjects including the American invasion of Iraq,  the region’s sizable Middle Eastern population, one of the largest in the nation, Saddam Hussein’s spies in Detroit, the presence of Hezbollah supporters, public corruption in a town where a man once dubbed “the hip hop mayor” is behind bars and a new policy that allows his office and other U.S. Attorney’s offices to pass on highly secretive grand jury information to U.S. troops overseas. The following answers were condensed and the questions were edited for clarity.

Q. In terms of counter-terrorism, how does Detroit fit in to the picture?
A. We have a disproportionate number of resources committed to national security cases when you compare it to other districts. I believe it’s one of the largest national security units in the country. And we’re a smaller office. We just prosecuted a couple people . They were exporting telecommunication equipment to the former Saddam Hussein government in Iraq. You may have seen in the news just a couple days ago a person who was arrested, I believe in Maine, for essentially spying in the Detroit area on behalf of the Saddam Hussein regime. We’ve had about four or five of these indictments in the last probably two or three years. Most of the results have probably been obtained in the last year. There are a lot of these individuals, their identities were learned through some of the documents that were recovered in Iraq after the 2003 invasion of Iraq; various Iraqi intelligence agency documents.


Q: Were these folks actually working full time for the government or were they just sort of informants?

A. I think it varied. I can’t tell you whether they were (all) full times intelligence officers. I rather doubt it. In the intelligence world you have to have a cover, so they were doing something else. I think in a couple of the cases, the Iraqi community here in the Metro Detroit area suspected that they were at the very least sympathetic to Saddam Hussein and in some cases, actually thought they were spying and reporting back to Iraq prior to the war.


Q. Was that hard to prove without the documents?

A. It would have been virtually impossible to prosecute without those documents and it would have been virtually impossible to prosecute without authenticating those documents. So we were fortunate in a number of cases of obtaining first hand knowledge of witnesses who would have been available to testify “yeah I remember these documents’ or “these were the types of documents I saw while I was in the Iraqi government.”


Q. Are there still other cases?

A. I think at this point, we have a five-year statute of limitations. The war ended in 2003. We’re probably running up realistically (against) a five-year statute of limitations.

Q. In this town, folks supportive of Hezbollah go back and forth from Detroit to Lebanon. There’s also sentiment in favor of Hamas. What’s your sense of what’s going on in the community?
A. I can only speak on what we’ve publicly charged, proven or presented into evidence. We have charged a number of individuals with supporting Hezbollah in various ways. We’ve received some guilty pleas to material support of Hezbollah. We have a gentlemen, he was sentenced to 54 months of imprisonment. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide support to Hezbollah. He organized and hosted meetings at his Dearborn residence. He featured speakers from Lebanon, during which the participants solicited donations to Hezbollah. The money solicited was intended to support Hezbollah’s orphans of martyrs program to benefit the families of those killed in Hezbollah terror operations or (fighting) Hezbollah enemies. During one of our detention hearings we put into evidence testimony that the term orphan often times was used as a euphemism for support of Hezbollah. Almost invariably they’re orphans of suicide fighters or people who have engaged the Israelis in conflict.
Q . What about people in the organization who say the money is going to hospitals and education. Does it make your case tougher?
A. From a jury standpoint it muddies the water a little bit. Our basic rebuttal to that is any money that goes to Hezbollah, anything that’s a so called Humanitarian mission, really, it frees up more money to go to its military and terrorist operations . Point number two. The State Department has designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorism organization. So regardless of whatever your intent is and whatever you’re earmarking that money for, any money whatsoever, for whatever purpose that you send knowingly to Hezbollah, is a crime. I think if you dig a little deeper below the surface, most of those individuals will at least acknowledge that they understand that one of the missions of Hezbollah is to first, drive the Israelis out and two to advance a more radical Shiite Islamic vision on Lebanon.
Q. What about Hamas? Do you see Hamas here?.
A. I don’t know that we’ve had any cases where we’ve publicly shown a connection to Hamas. There’s certainly support here in the area for Hamas and other Palestinian rejectionist groups that are designated as FTOs – Foreign Terrorist Organizations. They are something that we would be interested in and we carefully monitor. Our mission is first and foremost to prevent another terrorist attack and so we use our criminal tools to do that.
Q. Is there any backlash from the Arab community from people who say these people are just trying to establish a Home State?
A. I don’t know if it’s caused any tension. We try to deal strictly with the prosecutions, we understand there’s a public relations component to that. And we do what we can throughout our cases, which is really limited, particularly when you have pleas, of getting the information out there about who those people are, what they represent and the danger they pose to the national security. Beyond that we don’t have a lot of abilities to change the hearts and minds of people who think these are freedom fighters.


Q. Is there a concern that al Qaeda may have a presence here?

A. I can’t comment on anything. So far we have not to my knowledge prosecuted anyone associated with al Qaeda in this district. But to define that threat as only al Qaeda is somewhat misleading. Because al Qaeda is only one part of a much larger international jihadist movement. When you say al Qaeda I think there’s a movement away from using that term to describe a much larger international jihadist movement.


Q. Are you seeing any particular problem with hate groups in Michigan?

A. We did prosecute a Rochester Hills woman for communicating a terrorism hoax and making  a false statement to federal agents . She left a recorded telephone message at a BP Refinery in Oregon, Ohio in which she falsely stated that two specific employees there were plotting some very bad terrorist activity toward the refinery. The defendants had falsely specified two employees of Middle Eastern descent as the alleged plotters and she was ultimately indicted and convicted . I know our office prosecuted one or two individuals who were involved in threatening an Imam in a mosque.

Q. What have you been doing lately to foster the relationship with the Middle Eastern community?
A. We were one of the first districts in the country to develop the Bridges Programs. Largely because at the time in the aftermath of 9/11 there was a lot of concern in the community that the immediate backlash would be a blanket backlash against the entire Muslim community. And so that was set up with various representatives in the community. Now it’s become more or less a monthly or every couple months meeting where representatives from our office and federal law enforcement meet with those same (community) representatives and talk about various issues. At least on one or two occasions, people brought representatives from the U.S. Treasury Department, the Office of Foreign Asset Control, who came out in the aftermath of some investigative activity relative to charities. I think it was well received. They explained the law giving money to charities the government was looking at.

Q. How about in terms of public corruption , what kind of emphasis has there been on public corruption here?

A. Obviously if you’ve been reading the paper public corruption is one of our top priorities , particularly given the state of affairs of the city of Detroit . Our U.S. Attorney has certainly emphasized that.


Q. What can you say about public corruption here in the city of Detroit?
A. Probably not much . You can go back and look at some of the recent coverage of guilty pleas. We’re doing some public corruption work, but beyond that I can’t comment.

Q. What about espionage here?

A. The cases that we’ve had thus far that have been prosecuted mainly dealt with spying on behalf of a foreign government; that is Iraq. The Department of Justice places a high priority of protecting a wide variety of technology not only tangible products,  but also the technology. That’s something we are certainly sensitive to and something we want to assure we have enough resources to devote to.


Q. When you talk about technology , what type of technology? Auto related?

A. The two areas are of big concern are military technology . Number two is dual use technology. That’s a little harder. That’s technology that has a civilian use but may also have a military application.


Q. Over time the office has lost some high profile cases like the one against attorney Geoffrey Fieger. I guess the question some people might ask is: Does a big loss make you a little gun shy to go after big cases like that?

A. Generally as you know from watching cases all over the country, public corruption cases are some of the most difficult cases that we prosecute. Often times the evidence is difficult to obtain, often times the cases involved usually involve some type of payments between two individuals. It’s not always easy to get one of the two parties to the conspiracy to cooperate. Sometimes it’s necessary to use more sophisticated techniques like electronic surveillance, wiretaps. They’re lengthy investigations. We have had a number of successful public corruption cases over the years.


Q. Has any of the rules changed since you began investigating terrorist cases in the last few years. Do you have more latitude? Is it easier to get a wiretap?
A. I haven’t seen any changes. We have always had a fairly stringent review process. (But) we have to be sensitive. We’re generating foreign intelligence information that may be useful to someone in the CIA or someone in the battlefield. Where before if we had someone go into the grand jury: “I know about Taliban troop movements in Afghanistan”…. under those prior rules we couldn’t take that information and give it to the military. Now we can take that with notice of the court and pass it on. We have done that around the country. That is something that is encouraged by the Department of Justice. We are encouraged to share information.
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