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Special Report

Where Will This Tenacious U.S. Atty. Land?

By Jon Perkins
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Fair to say, during his seven-year reign as Chicago’s U.S. Attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald has been relentless. He’s gone after ex-Gov. George Ryan, Gov. Rod Blagojovich and Tony Rezko, a political fundraiser with links to President-elect Barack Obama. He came to Washington as a special prosecutor and rattled the town, sending one reporter off to jail, dragging political operative Karl Rove before a grand jury and prosecuting Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.
Now, with the Obama transition, comes speculation about the future of the Bush appointee many in the Justice Department consider a “prosecutor’s prosecutor.”
Hall talk – a term they use over at the Justice Department, is that Fitzgerald, a Harvard Law School graduate, may be tapped to run the criminal division or even serve as deputy attorney general to Eric H. Holder Jr., Obama’s choice to run the Justice Department, or become the U.S. Attorney for New York, Fitzgerald’s hometown. The deputy attorney general post-considered the most political of the three – is probably the least likely.
There’s a good number of folks in Illinois, mostly Democratic and Republican politicians and
their supporters, who want the prosecutor moved. Certainly some of those people wouldn’t cry if he was removed from the Justice Department all together – a move one source says would be “gut-wrenching” to Fitzgerald.
Others want Fitzgerald to stay in Chicago to continue chasing criminals.
An appointment to any of the highly-coveted posts in Washington or New York could be
considered a reward. But some skeptics on the left and right say it may be a way for the Obama administration to remove the feisty prosecutor from the Illinois landscape where some feel he’s overstepped and overstayed.
Most agree he would be an “excellent” selection for Washington or New York.
Even so, such an appointment would fly in the face of a campaign pledge by Obama to leave the prosecutor in Chicago where his investigations have led to the indictment and conviction of scores of public officials including former Gov. George Ryan, who is serving time in a federal prison in
Wisconsin for corruption charges. In Washington, Fitzgerald, as a special prosecutor in Washington, helped convict Vice President Richard Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on charges stemming from the unmasking of former CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson.
If Fitzgerald is named chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division, many insiders
would consider it a promotion. Others in Justice say it would be a lateral move, but an important job nonetheless.
Then there’s a little complication.
“He really likes Chicago. He married a local gal,” says one source.
Fitzgerald wed Chicago school teacher Jennifer Letzkus in June.
“The smart thing would be to make him deputy a..g.,” although that job may be too political for Fitzgerald, the source said, adding that he thinks that job be “highly unlikely.” Another possibility is to
make him the U.S. attorney in New York, regarded as the highest profile U.S attorney’s post in the country. “He’d love that.”

Fitzgerald was raised in Brooklyn, a son of a Manhattan doorman. He also worked there as an assistant U.S. Attorney where he helped prosecute mob figure John Gotti.

The Obama transition team declined to comment. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Fitzgerald, said the prosecutor had “absolutely no comment whatsoever.” on the matter. A spokesman for Chicago Mayor
Richard M. Daley also declined to comment.

News of the possible out of town move would reverberate in Illinois.
Bernard Schoenburg, the veteran political columnist for the Springfield Journal Register, said the Justice Department’s gain would be Illinois’ loss.

“He has the reputation for being a straight shooter and tough prosecutor,” Schoenburg said. “He was not warmly received in some quarters when he arrived in Illinois. He has gone after people in a nonpartisan way and been pretty effective.”
Fitzgerald was behind the recent conviction of Tony Rezko, a financier and fund-raiser who has been connected to several Illinois Democrats including Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Obama.
Schoenburg said that Blagojevich has seen several of his associates indicted and convicted. Obama has not been named as a target in the Rezko case.
Fitzgerald has also gone after the Republicans. Besides ex-Gov. Ryan, he’s gone after his co-defendant Lawrence Warner and his political operative Scott Fawell. In all, about 80 Illinois political figures have been convicted in the corruption probes during his reign. That has not sat well in the great state of Illinois, which has a long history of chicanery.
According to the Chicago Tribune, which in an editorial urged Obama to keep Fitzgerald in Illinois, testimony in Rezko’s trial alleged that several high-ranking Republicans conspired with the Bush administration to force out Fitzgerald.
Schoenberg simply calls Fitzgerald a “hard-driving, straight shooter” and “not in it for the ego.”
“It would be a great disappointment if he leaves Illinois.”

Pardon ME or ME or ME?

By Dafna Linzer
Credit: ProPublica
Credit: ProPublica

Attention, convicts: Time is running out to get applications into the pardon attorney at the Justice Department if you’re hoping that President Bush will be your decider. Few of you should get your hopes up — Bush has rejected a record number of requests for pardons and commutations. In the last eight years, he has pardoned 157 people — a miserly sum compared to his predecessors. But you don’t have to give up entirely: More are expected in the coming months, most notably for Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Before President Clinton went on a pardon spree for wealthy friends and campaign contributors at the end of his presidency, pardons and commutations were traditionally bestowed on average citizens who had successfully reformed their lives and given back to their communities after completing lengthy sentences. Pardon experts believe that of the Bush prospects, the 1980s junk-bond king Michael Milken best fits the rich-and-famous description.

Most of the other top prospects for pardon listed below have, like Milken, been convicted and served prison time. But not all. People who are merely charged could be eligible for pardons, as Bush’s father demonstrated when he pardoned former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. And Washington is abuzz with the prospect that Bush might issue pre-emptive pardons for government employees who could face trouble in the future stemming from their roles in his “war on terror.”

We’ve rated potential pardonees’ chances from zero to four “Get of Jail Free” cards.

Sports

Marion Jones

(Hiroko Masuike /Getty Images)
(Hiroko Masuike /Getty Images)

The disgraced Olympic gold medalist returned five awards after she was sentenced to six months in jail in January for lying to federal agents about using steroids. She was released on Sept. 5. Jones’ offense is considered mild, and her sentence was brief, but the president may not want to reward someone who cost the United States Olympic Gold.

Likelihood: Unlikely

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Michael Vick

(Win McNamee /Getty Images)
(Win McNamee /Getty Images)

The Atlanta Falcons’ suspended quarterback is serving a 23-month sentence in Leavenworth, Kan., for criminal conspiracy relating to dog fighting. Yuck. There just isn’t much of a pro dog-fighting lobby to pull for Vick.

Likelihood: No chance.

Barry Bonds

(David Paul Morris /Getty Images)
(David Paul Morris /Getty Images)

The former San Francisco Giants superstar who holds the MLB all-time record for home runs was indicted in November 2007 for lying about his involvement in a steroids scandal. Bonds became a free agent last year but has been unable to find a team willing to sign him while under indictment. As a former baseball team owner, Bush may be sympathetic to Bonds. But let’s be honest — who in baseball likes Barry?

Likelihood: Unlikely

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Texas

Florita Bell Griffin

(John Anderson /The Austin Chronicle)
(John Anderson /The Austin Chronicle)

As governor, Bush appointed Griffin to the oversight board of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. In 2000, she was convicted of bribery, theft and money laundering. In 2003, a federal appeals court overturned a separate conviction for mail fraud. Griffin has two things going for her: Bush and Texas. Bush has pardoned more of his fellow Texans than residents of any other state.

Likelihood: Possible

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Texas Border Patrol Guards

(U.S. House)
(U.S. House)

Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, pictured with his wife, are serving sentences of 11 and 12 years, respectively, for the nonfatal shooting in the back of an unarmed Mexican drug runner in February 2005. A jury found the two border patrolmen then tried to cover up the shooting. Their requests for a pardon have won support from numerous Republican congressmen including Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, who introduced the Congressional Pardon for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean Act. Bush left open the possibility of a pardon for both men during an interview with a Texas TV station.

Likelihood: Good Chance

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Team Bush

Scooter Libby

(Chip Somodevilla /Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla /Getty Images)

Cheney’s former chief of staff, who also served as assistant to the president, was convicted of perjury and obstructing the FBI’s investigation of the leak of former CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity. In June of 2007 he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a hefty fine. Bush commuted the prison time, but only a pardon will allow Libby to practice law again.

Likelihood: You Betcha!

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James Tobin

(Jim Cole/AP Photo)
(Jim Cole/AP Photo)

Tobin was Bush’s 2004 New England campaign chairman and raised more than $200,000 for the president’s re-election bid. He was indicted in October for making false statements to the FBI in connection with the bureau’s investigation of the plot to jam Democratic Party phones in New Hampshire in 2002. Tobin was convicted in 2005 for his actual role in that scheme, but that conviction was overturned on appeal in 2007. His fundraising prowess and the overturning of his earlier conviction — in connection with the same case — make him a good pardon candidate.

Likelihood: Good Chance

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Tom Noe

(Jeremy Wadsworth /AFP/Getty Images)
(Jeremy Wadsworth /AFP/Getty Images)

Noe was a prominent Ohio Republican fundraiser for Bush-Cheney ’04. He was sentenced to 27 months in a federal prison for illegally funneling money to the campaign. Two months later, he was also found guilty of theft, money laundering, forgery and corrupt activity related to Ohio’s rare-coin investment scandal. Noe may have had a shot if his only offense were connected to campaign funding. But his Ohio crime was one of a number of nasty Republican scandals that badly damaged the party’s standing in the 2006 midterm election.

Likelihood: Unlikely

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Congressman

Sen. Ted Stevens

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Now that the 85-year-old Alaska Republican, who was found guilty last month of corruption, has lost re-election, members of his party might push for a pardon for him — after all, he spent the last 40 years in the Senate. Stevens seemed to dismiss the need for a pardon while the votes were being counted; late Tuesday, he was tight-lipped about the whether he would ask Bush for clemency.

Likelihood: Possible

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Bob Ney

(Lauren Victoria Burke/wdcpix.com)
(Lauren Victoria Burke/wdcpix.com)

The former Republican congressman from Ohio was sentenced to two and a half years in prison after he acknowledged taking bribes from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney was on the Abramoff-sponsored golfing trip to Scotland at the heart of the case against David Safavian, the former White House procurement officer who was also caught up in the scandal. A pardon of Ney could refocus public attention on cushy relationships between Republicans and lobbyists over the last eight years — relationships that a humbled GOP would rather forget.

Likelihood: No Chance

Randy Cunningham

(Lenny Ignelzi/AP Photo, File)
(Lenny Ignelzi/AP Photo, File)

The former Republican congressman from California pleaded guilty in 2005 to federal conspiracy charges to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion. He was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison and ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution for all the fancy gifts he racked up from lobbyists. “The Duke” has a pardon attorney, and a number of people have written to the Justice Department in support of clemency. But Cunningham’s naked abuse of power tainted Republican rule and contributed to steep party losses in 2006.

Likelihood: No Chance

Brent Wilkes

(Lenny Ignelzi/AP Photo)
(Lenny Ignelzi/AP Photo)

Wilkes, a defense contractor, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in February for furnishing Cunningham with yachts, vacations and other luxury items in exchange for lucrative contracts. Wilkes cooperated with federal investigators in the Cunningham case, and that could help him win a pardon.

Likelihood: Possible

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Kyle “Dusty” Foggo

(Denis Poroy/AP Photo)
(Denis Poroy/AP Photo)

Foggo was Wilkes’ childhood friend before he rose to become executive director of the CIA, the No. 3 position in the U.S. spy agency. He was indicted in 2007 on several counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in connection with Wilkes and admitted to steering a lucrative CIA contract to his pal. Foggo remains under investigation by the CIA and other federal agencies. But his cooperation with investigators and years of service in the clandestine agency once run by Bush’s father could make him a good candidate for clemency.

Likelihood: Possible

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Team Abramoff

Jack Abramoff

(Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)
(Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)

The former Hollywood producer-turned-Republican lobbyist was at the center of the largest lobbying scandal in Washington, which erupted in 2005. Abramoff was convicted of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. The sentence was reduced in September to four years in recognition of Abramoff’s cooperation with investigators. That’s all the break he’ll get. Abramoff was such a disaster for Bush and the GOP that the White House refused to release any photos in which the president and Abramoff appeared in the same room at the same time.

Likelihood: No Chance

J. Steven Griles

(Lauren Victoria Burke/AP Photo)
(Lauren Victoria Burke/AP Photo)

Griles served as Deputy Secretary of the Interior during Bush’s first term. In March 2007, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges in connection with his 2005 Senate testimony regarding the Abramoff scandal. Griles was sentenced to 10 months in prison and fined $30,000. He was released this year. Griles’ time served, combined with his senior position in the administration, make him a good candidate for a pardon.

Likelihood: Possible

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David Safavian

(Chip Somodevilla /Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla /Getty Images)

The senior White House procurement officer in the Office of Management and Budget was convicted in 2006 for concealment, making false statements and obstructing justice in the Abramoff investigation. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but the conviction was overturned in June. A retrial is set for December.

Likelihood: Unlikely

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White Collar

Michael Milken

(Wikimedia Commons)
(Wikimedia Commons)

The junk-bond king became the symbol of the ’80s greed on Wall Street that led to insider-trading scandals and a stock-market crash. Milken was sentenced to eight years for conspiracy and fraud charges and ordered to pay $200 million in fines. But he was released in January 1993, after less than two years in prison. Milken, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer that year, has since devoted significant resources to philanthropy and created several foundations to support cancer research. Milken, who is believed to be worth more than $1 billion, tried unsuccessfully to secure a pardon from President Clinton. He is currently represented by Washington powerhouse attorney Ted Olsen, Bush’s longtime friend and first-term solicitor general. Olsen also represented Armand Hammer, who received a pardon from former President George H.W. Bush.

Likelihood: Excellent Chance

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The Smartest Guys in the Room

(Dave Einsel, Johnny Hanson /Getty Images)
(Dave Einsel, Johnny Hanson /Getty Images)

Former Enron executives Jeffrey Skilling, right, and Andrew Fastow, left, were convicted of multiple federal felonies in 2006 in connection to Enron’s downfall. Skilling, who was Enron’s CEO, is serving a 24-year-prison sentence at a federal penitentiary in Minnesota. Fastow, the corporate CFO, is nearing the end of his six-year sentence. Bush was friends with the now-deceased chairman, Kenneth Lay of Enron, which, of course was based in Texas. But the president managed to distance himself from the company’s extraordinary collapse. A point against pardons for these guys: Considering the current financial crisis, rewarding Enron’s failed leadership might not be smart.

Likelihood: Possible

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Martha Stewart

(Don Emmert/AFP /Getty Images)
(Don Emmert/AFP /Getty Images)

Millions of glue-gun aficionados would love to see a pardon for the domestic doyenne who was convicted in 2004 of lying to investigators about a stock sale and served five months in a women’s correctional facility. Thousands of people have even signed a petition seeking a pardon for Martha. It’s hard to see what would be in it for Bush. But Martha’s spectacular book sales and daytime-TV ratings are testament to millions of other Americans’ ability to forgive. Why not the president, too? (The question, of course, that all pardon applicants ask.)

Likelihood: Why Not?

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Printed with permission of ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom.

Hate Groups And The Obama Factor

Daniel Cowart/suspect in alleged Obama plot

Daniel Cowart/suspect in alleged Obama plot

By Tomás Dinges
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In the past couple months, from Idaho to Maryland, there were at least eight reports of swastikas or racist language scrawled on Barack Obama presidential signs.

In Oregon, on Sept. 23, at a Christian university, four students hung a life-sized cardboard cutout of Obama from a tree on campus.

And on Oct. 27 in Tennessee a criminal complaint was unsealed charging two young men with a plot – albeit a far-fetched, improbable one — to assassinate Obama and kill other blacks. On Nov. 5, a grand jury took the next step and indicted them.

This wasn’t a normal election season.

Federal law enforcement knows it.

In fact, several  days before the election, James Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for Eastern Tennessee and Alabama, who was involved in the investigation into the Obama assassination plot, said: “We are paying attention because it could be the first black president and it’s historic.

The day after the election, he echoed similar sentiments: “This is a large change for the country in a positive way, but it requires law enforcement to pay attention to what’s going on. We’ve got to keep our ear to the ground.”

Ed Donovan, a U.S. Secret Service spokesman won’t go into much detail about specific threats or what’s being done to prevent them and protect Sen. Obama. His  words are similar to those of  ATF.

“We’re aware of the historical significance of his candidacy,” and the agency “takes any threats on our protectees very seriously, and investigates any credible threats reported to us.”

The Associated Press, quoting unnamed officials,  reported Nov. 14 “that since the Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president-elect.”

During the course of the campaign, threats popped up everywhere.

In the final stretch, with increasing intensity, Acorn, which found itself immersed in a controversy over fraudulent voter registration signatures, received hundreds of hateful messages and anonymous calls, many of which included racial slurs and threats of violence against Obama.

Acorn spokesman Charles Jackson, who said the Justice Department was notified, remarked shortly before the election: “It’s pretty scary sometimes.”

Common sense tells us that the scariness isn’t likely to vanish anytime soon as  President-elect Barack Obama prepares to become the 44th president of the United States.

Obama received his Secret Service protection on May 3rd of this year, the earliest of any presidential candidate in history. Not until the assassination of Robert Kennedy did the Secret Service even provide protection for candidates.

In many ways, Obama’s presence on the national stage has put some oomph into a hate-based movement that seemed somewhat lethargic. The signs of intensified interest were everywhere from the Internet to peoples’ driveways.

In October KKK pamphlets were wrapped into the Ada Evening News in Missouri. In late September, neatly packaged fliers left on driveways in New Jersey greeted residents asking:

“Why should we seal our fate by allowing a Black ruler to destroy us?” It linked nations run by Black presidents to instability and violence. A New Jersey white supremacist group formed in March, was the source of the materials, according to local news reports.

Rhetoric on hate group and white supremacist websites has experienced an upsurge, according to a Sept. 23 report by the Anti-Defamation League, a group which uses investigative researchers to track hate group activity throughout the country.

Page views have hit records on websites like Stormfront.org, a discussion site run by a former national grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan based in West Palm Beach, Fla. Web site visits to Stormfront spiked radically with Obama’s June 3rd primary win, according to the web information company Alexa.com.

“Whites felt they would not see a day when an African-American would have a real chance to become president.” said Marilyn Mayo, the co-director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “This is driving a lot of angry sentiments communicated in web site discussion groups.”

As interest grows, some groups have tried to moderate their online message to attract a wider audience by doing away with traditional white supremacist symbols and inflammatory words like “nigger”, the swastika, and the 88 number, the latter being a reference to Hitler, according to Mark Potok, director of Intelligence at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But some are doing it the old fashion way.

More violent posts on racist blogs and online discussion forums like Stormfront have openly called for the assassination of Sen. Obama. One poster, named Mr.Widowmaker said, “I also think that if Obongo is elected he’ll be taken out by one of the true patriots in our country.”

Other hate-mongering warns of Sen. Obama’s, “agenda to destroy the White race” while others associate him with Black radicals, Communists and Jews.

Also in September, white supremacist magazine known for its provocative content, was titled “Kill this N—er?.” It featured Sen. Obama pictured through a rifle scope with a swastika surrounding it. The subtitle was “Negro Deification and the “Obama Assassination” Myth”.

Law enforcement officials and others who track the movement generally feel that a threat on the Obama’s life or any other candidate or institution is more likely to come from a “lone wolf” than an organization.

That may be the case with the two men, Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, who were charged in Tennessee in the suspected plot to kill Obama.

The Southern Poverty Law Center noted on its website that Cowart was a member of the Supreme White Alliance (SWA). It took note that the organization was denying it in a message on its website.

On its site, the SWA wrote: “The Southern Poverty Law Center has lied yet again stating on their website that the two young men arrested yesterday on charges accusing them of plotting to assassinate the presidential candidate Barack Oboma and go on some sort of killing spree are tied to the SWA. One of the young men was in fact a probate earlier this year but was ousted by the SWA before the SWA held an actual presidential election. Since this time none of the SWA members have had any contact with the accused. So before you get your story wrong, (SPLC) get the facts.”
The white supremacist movement experienced a splintering after the deaths of important leaders of Aryan Nations and the National Alliance in 2004 and 2002. This led to multiple smaller groups throughout the country, but also more white supremacists acting independently, said the ADL’s Mayo.

“In the last five years the neo-Nazi movement has turned into a lot of little factions, with no one group,” dominating. A lack of leadership has also resulted in, “a lot of unaffiliated people,” she said.

Mark Potok says aggressive law enforcement surveillance of hate groups has also weakened them, but made them more cautious.

“The likelihood of these groups getting infiltrated is extremely high.”

It has also has increased the possibility of disgruntled members with more radical agendas splitting off, according to Potok.

“The likelihood of an assassination by a group is infinitesimal,” said Potok. “I would not say the same thing about lone wolves.” This would be their “day to make the world whole again.”

There is no shortage of hate groups in the country.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization which tracks hate groups and collaborates with law enforcement in different ways, says that there are 888 active hate groups in the nation, of which 750 are white nationalist groups with between 100,000 -200,000 people involved in a direct way.

The number of these groups has increased 48 percent between 2000 and 2007, he said. While the South has been a traditional focal point of these sorts of organizations they are spread throughout the country.

The movement has ebbed and flowed over the years.

“There was also a big build up prior to Oklahoma City,” said ATF’s Cavanaugh with activity at Waco, Ruby Ridge as well as states like Arizona and Michigan. “They were fomenting each other on the Internet,” he said.

“It’s where like-minded lunatics find each other. They electrify each other. So they were in sort of this maniacal state prior to Oklahoma City.”

Things changed after the 1995 bombing. Law enforcement and surveillance increased and membership in these groups began to be reduced to the core members most willing to engage in violent activities.

“Oklahoma City came and there was this big shake out. ” said Cavanaugh. “When real violence takes place it gets down to the core believers.” Of 100 participants, five, said Cavanaugh, are willing to take violent action for their beliefs.

The hate groups and anti-government groups in the 1990s also espoused the concept of leaderless resistance, in which both hate groups and anti-government groups encouraged individuals not to wait for “your orders from the top, just get your cell and go do it,” according to Cavanaugh.

The bombings of the World Trade Center in 2001 also had an impact on the movement.

“It shot these guys with adrenalin,” said ATF’s Cavanaugh. 9/11 reflected the burst in activity and the ability of hate groups to adapt to the times to increase membership.

It was generally a rallying cry for anti-immigration, be it Muslims or Latinos, and it was used as a recruiting tool.

“Now what we are seeing is the immigration issue,” said Cavanaugh. “This is a real live issue and a cause for concern.”

The Obama candidacy has brought to fore some of the old names like former politician and ex-KKK leader David Duke.

On his website, Duke almost went so far as to endorse Sen. Obama in an article on June 4th, as did others, reasoning that Obama’s nomination will herald a new era of racial politics, one in which race consciousness will be dominated by a white agenda.

“My bet is that whether Obama wins or loses come November,” writes Duke on his website, “millions of European Americans will inevitably react with a new awareness of their heritage and the need to defend and advance it.”

In the end, with all the chatter and all the threats, law enforcement has the daunting task of figuring out who poses a real danger and who does not.

“Out of a hundred, there are maybe five that are going to go all the way,” said ATF’s Cavanaugh. “We have to root through the other 95. You are free to be a bigot, a bozo, a wolf in hyena’s clothing and that is all in the name of free speech, but you are not free to plot an assassination.”

Talk On Terrorisim


John G. Perren, FBI special agent in charge of counter-terrorism at the Washington field office, spent a half year in Iraq for the bureau in 2005 as the on-scene commander before returning home to headquarters to become section chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction/Domestic Terrorism Operations Section. Earlier this year, he took his new post. He recently sat down in his office with ticklethewire.com editor Allan Lengel. The following is a condensed version.

Q. You think about of all the white supremacist groups and now we have a black presidential candidate. Has that changed the landscape at all with Obama running?

A. We have a domestic terrorism squad that we task their sources to be our ears on the ground in case any kind of threat does come up against a candidate. If you you listen to the rhetoric and beliefs, this plays into their fears.

The rhetoric has picked up. You can see that in open source reporting. Go on the Internet, we’re getting source reporting that they’re very keenly aware and watching very closely, politics, what’s going on. Any information on any threats we get regarding presidential candidates, we coordinate closely with U.S. Secret Service.

Q. Since Sept. 11, the Internet has become more and more a part of our culture. How has that impacted the terrorism network and has that impacted the way you investigate it?

A. What its done, its taken this large world of ours and made it a lot smaller. It enabled these Jihadist, these terrorist groups to actually match recipes over the Internet, talk to each other over the Internet, conduct training over the Internet. What we’ve done in the Washington field office, we’ve started a terrorist cyber squad to address such threats.

Q. How does that work?

A. Right now, I don’t want to comment too much on that. We’ll be conducting investigations over the Internet. It won’t just be for this area. The Internet squad will be starting out in Manassas. This will be national and worldwide. We’re talking about getting set up in the next couple months. We’re aware of the cyber threat.

Q. We’ve heard a lot about sleeper cells since Sept. 11. Are there sleeper cells?

A. That’s always a concern for us. Our biggest concern… that lone wolf. That’s still our concern. Home grown people. We not only have core al Qaeda and we have al Qaeda inspired and we have those that sit there and listen and absorb it and sympathize, and those are the people that run below the radar that we’re really concerned about. That runs across international terrorism, domestic terrorism, WMD threats. The lone wolf is what worries us the most.

Q. Back to domestic terrorism…

A. After the Oklahoma bombing, they became more prominent.

I think they were always there but they came to the forefront. We still have our right wing groups, we still have our left wing groups, we still have our special interest groups, they’re not as vocal, they don’t seem as organized as they used to be with the passing with National Alliance leader (white supremacist group). They kind of split off in different factions. They’re still out there. Again you go back to that lone wolf. That’s my biggest concern. The lone wolf that joins a group and is not satisfied with the radicalism of that group, and thinks they’re all talk; looks for a more radical group and doesn’t find one and decides to do something himself. That’s the guy that’s flying under the radar. That’s why we need to have all the ears and eyes on the ground watching for somebody like that. That’s why we set up what we call trip wires. That’s why we go to talk to the Home Depots, the Loews. And to the chemical folks. If somebody does come and starts purchasing a lot of ammonia nitrate, a lot of fertizler or goes to chemical companies or storages and purchases a lot of precursors like hydrogen peroxide, things like that. We have these alarm bells on there so they’ll pick up the phone and ‘go yeah, we just sold, don’t know why he bought all these stuff.’ That’s what we constantly do. Make folks aware. We set up our trip wires.

Q. After Sept. 11 you were inundated with tips. Have you learned to sift through that better so you’re not spending as much time chasing after the wrong people?

A. We still have that ‘no lead is left unaddressed’. Anything we get we chase it down. In the Washington field office, we have a Guardian Squad that does that. Any threat, any information, suspicious activity, anything we get, we generate a lead and follow it up.

Q. Before Sept. 11, a lot of people did not know about Middle Eastern culture. What’s the FBI done to close that gap?

A. We have several agents that have received culture training, they’ve gone over to the Middle East and had language training, culture training. Our Intel analysts that are coming into the bureau and our agents that are coming to the bureau, we’re looking for diversified backgrounds and culture. We have given culture training. Here at the Spy Museum, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, our agents, task force officers, we had these folks from West Pointe come in; professors, doctors, that have been in the culture, teach our folks for about a one-week long lesson plan. It had to do with culture. Everything from talking, to gestures, how to approach people, how to conduct interviews and the historical perspective of cultures, Muslims, Islam, how it all comes together. That’s going to be ongoing. That’s not going to be a one time thing.

Q. Have terrorists groups changed the way they do things?

A. We have certain groups out here, they’re here strictly to raise funds. And we follow the money. We know these funds are being used to support terrorists. We’re doing that not just here in the Washington D.C. area, but we’re doing it nationally. I don’t want to get into specifics. We have active investigations where we know folks are raising funds, taking these funds, sending them abroad and they’re used in support of terrorism or used in support of training. Again, it’s following the money.

Q. Back to sleeper cells. There are a lot of sleeper cells?

A. I know in 2006, you know when we went to the caves and all that stuff and came up with the pocket litter. That was part of their plan, send people over and have them be westernized and use these folks. To answer your question, I’m not going to answer that question. We’re aware of that possibility.

Q. Have the data bases been helpful?

A. It has been. As far as information sharing, sharing data, it’s been real helpful. It’s almost unheard of now for an agency not to talk to another agency. A lot of data bases are grouped together so a lot of agencies can data mine them.

Q. Are you still getting good intelligence from overseas, in Iraq?

A. Yes.

Q. Have you been able to work any known plots?

A. (Doesn’t want to discuss).

Q. Is that frustrating (not being able to discuss that)?

A. We have no issue with that. We can take our criticisms, we take our shots, but we know of our accomplishments. We can’t sit there and talk about these accomplishments.

Q. There is a list of what the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. Obviously the magic word there is al Qaeda, the Taliban. What about Hezbollah and Hamas? Do you see them as threats in this country or are they just threats to the respective countries?

A. We’re actively working those organizations; we’re actively working Hamas, we’re actively working Hezbollah. We’ve got a squad dedicated directly to Hamas and Hezbollah. I’ve got to be very careful, we’ve got ongoing investigations. We’ve got activity in our area that we’re investigating. They’re not what we call the bomb throwers, but they’re in support of training, recruiting, sending financing that we’re actively investigating. You have to remember an organization like that we may not have the operators here but the infrastructure is here. So what would it take for them to go from support to operational? That’s something that we’re always thinking about.

Q. There’s been talk since 2001 about the FBI should stick to certain things besides terrorism…

A. I think the FBI is very unique that we can combine our intelligence capabilities with our law enforcement capabilities. That’s our uniqueness. We’ve had MI5 come to the United States, take a look at us and say ‘Man, we wish we could do what you could do. We don’t work as well as you do. Don’t turn into MI5.’



Q. In the hi-tech world, have you been surprised?

A. They’re very savvy. They use the Internet, they know how to set up firewalls, they have their experts they use. That’s what this one squad is going to go after, identify these folks so they can’t communicate with each other, they can’t train, they can’t share information. We want to shutdown the site.

Q. Any advice to agents?

A. What I tell agents now. After they’re probationary time is up I have them come in my office. All new agents, I tell them let us not get complacent. Let us not forget about 9/11. let us keep that sense of urgency. Because nothings happened, let us not let our guard down. That’s my biggest fear that we let our guard down.