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Tag: Justice Department

Daily Camera: It’s Never OK for FBI to Pose As News Reporters

typewriter-reporterBy Editorial Board
Daily Camera

The U.S. Justice Department’s inspector general has cleared an FBI agent of wrongdoing for impersonating a journalist and using a fake Associated Press story to track down the 15-year-old who made bomb threats against a high school in the state of Washington nine years ago. The ruling sends a horrible message to agents — “do whatever you want, guys” — and has the potential to promote other ethically challenged behavior at an agency where professionalism should be a top priority.

With its stonewalling on records requests and bullying of reporters over news leaks, the Justice Department under President Barack Obama long ago set a new low for attempting to subvert the journalistic process.

Still, the inspector general’s ruling was a surprise partly because the FBI itself tacitly admitted mishandling the case. In June, it adopted a policy requiring agents to get high-level approval before impersonating a journalist in future investigations. Hopefully, the person reviewing those requests will have more scruples and better judgment than the DOJ inspector general or the FBI rogues who devised the 2007 caper.

Back then, law enforcement officials couldn’t figure out who was making bomb threats to Timberline High School via email. An agent contacted the suspect by email, posing as an AP “staff publisher,” and got him to open a link to a fake AP story about the bomb threats. The fake story was posted on a fake web page that resembled that of the Seattle Times. When the 15-year-old clicked on the link, it infected his computer with tracking software, leading authorities to him.

The FBI’s ruse and the inspector general’s whitewashing of it are damaging to journalism. But the government doesn’t care about that.

To read more click here. 

Justice Department Investigates Police Shooting of Unarmed Black Man in Oklahoma

Unarmed Terence Crutcher was fatally shot by Tulsa Police.

Unarmed Terence Crutcher was fatally shot by Tulsa Police.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department is investigating the police shooting of a black Oklahoma man who was unarmed and had his hands in the air after his SUV broke down.

The shooting occurred on the night of Sept. 16, when Tulsa police tased and then fatally shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, CNN reports. 

The Tulsa Police Department released dash cam and police helicopter video of the incident. Police Chief Chuck Jordan said the footage was “very disturbing and difficult to watch.”

Police were dispatched after a woman called 911 to report an abandoned vehicle blocking the road.

One police officer in the helicopter described Crutcher as a “bad dude,” although there was no evidence to suggest that was the case.

Moments later, an police officer shot Crutcher.

“I’m going to tell you right here now: There was no gun on the suspect or in the suspect’s vehicle,” Jordan said.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Residents Endangered by Botched ATF Sting

atf badgeBy Editorial Board
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A fake tattoo parlor in St. Louis set up down the street from the Boys and Girls Club, and use of a confidential informer with a troubled criminal history, help explain how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives placed some of the city’s most vulnerable residents at risk — and seriously undermined its own integrity in the process.

St. Louis was part of the ATF’s Operation Hustle City, in which agents and police set up the Ink Pimp tattoo parlor at 2806 North Grand Boulevard in January 2013. Agents posed as outlaw bikers looking to buy guns to ship to California or Mexico, and serve as drug cash couriers.

All this occurred in the same area where hundreds of kids regularly attended classes and events on a campus that promised a safe environment. What were ATF agents and their bosses thinking? This appalling example of disregard deals another blow to citizen confidence in law enforcement at a time when federal agencies should be helping to restore public trust.

The Justice Department released a highly critical report last week of undercover ATF storefront operations aimed at getting illegal guns and drugs off the streets in St. Louis and four other cities. The report criticized the operations for inadequate oversight, accountability, training and planning, but did not recommend ending them.

The report said ATF should consolidate its expertise in running storefront operations and not proceed with such stings until agency directors agree they are properly designed and executed.

An agency that has existed in one form or another since 1886 shouldn’t need to be told to properly design and execute operations, especially ones that endanger the very lives of citizens they are supposed to protect. Having issued new directives to the ATF, the Justice Department will need to monitor for implementation.

Other Stories of Interest

News Virginian: No Jail Time for Former Gov. McDonnell Doesn’t Mean He Escapes Disgrace

Ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell

Ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell

By Editorial Board
The News Virginian

After four years of dragging Virginia and his family through the mud with tawdry tales of what any layman would recognize as bribery, it turns out the punishment of former Gov. Bob McDonnell will not be prison time, but abject disgrace.

That’s the effect of the Justice Department’s decision last week to drop the official corruption case against McDonnell, despite recommendations by federal prosecutors in Virginia, who still believed they could secure a felony conviction against him.

The case’s resolution also lifts the threat of further prosecution against McDonnell’s wife, Maureen, whose brief tenure as Virginia’s first lady endowed her with a titanic sense of entitlement.

The Justice Department’s decision follows a decision by the Supreme Court in June vacating McDonnell’s conviction and leaving prosecutors with little realistic chance of securing a conviction under the court’s crabbed definition of official corruption.

The court’s ruling provides comfort for future sticky-fingered politicians, who will find it easier to line their pockets while leading supplicants and suitors by the nose. The McDonnells’ story is as hackneyed as any in America’s lurid history of political graft. A politician of some talent and unobjectionable views, whose good looks and respectable bearing are judged worthy by voters, is elevated by stages to lofty office. Once installed, he performs his official duties competently while, hidden from public view, he rubs shoulders with a conga line of well-heeled, solicitous and ethically agnostic favor seekers.

In the McDonnells’ case, one of them, businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., saw advantage in plying the first couple with tens of thousands of dollars in loans, gifts, favors and vacations, a potpourri of generosity in return for which he clearly hoped for favorable state treatment for his company’s tobacco-based nutritional supplement.

To read more click here. 

Alleged Hackers Who Dumped Data about CIA, FBI Were Arrested

hacker-istock-photoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A hacking group that called itself “Crackas With Attitude” bragged earlier this year about hacking the CIA, FBI and Justice Department, gaining access to thousands of names, phone numbers and email addresses.

Now two alleged members of the group are behind bars, accused of executing the data breaches, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

Andrew Otto Boggs, 22, and Justin Gray Liverman, 24, both from North Carolina, were charged with  conspiring to commit offenses against the U.S. in late 2015 and early 2016.

Among the victims were CIA Director John Brenna and then-Deputy FBI Director Mark Giuliano.

Investigators also are looking into three teenagers in the U.K. who may have been involved.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Authorities said the suspects often gained access to the accounts by calling the help lines at Internet-service companies and impersonating employees at those companies or the victims they were targeting. They were then able to reset the account passwords to their targets’ private email accounts, giving them access to those accounts. Computer-security experts refer to such techniques as social engineering, rather than hacking, because they typically depend on one person tricking another into providing key information that allows the suspect to access private accounts.

The “Crackas With Attitude’’ then used their access to taunt the officials, particularly Messrs. Brennan and Giuliano, with harassing phone calls and public ridicule posted online.

Justice Department Drops Charges Against Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell

Ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell

Ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison in 2014 for allegedly accepting gifts from a businessman promoting a tobacco-based dietary supplement.

But his sentence was on hold as he appealed the case.

Now, the Justice Department is dismissing the 11 felony counts after the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in June that prosecutors mishandled the case by mixing evidence of illegal activity with routine courtesies, Politico reports. 

The Justice Department said the Supreme Court has made it too difficult to retry McDonnell.

McDonnell and his family went on vacations and received gifts and loans valued at $177,999 from the dietary supplement businessman, Johnnie Williams.

The Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors failed to show that McDonnell intended to provide help to William in exchange for gifts and loans.

“After carefully considering the Supreme Court’s recent decision and the principles of federal prosecution, we have made the decision not to pursue the case further,” said a statement issued Thursday by the Justice Department. “The department thanks the trial team and its investigative partners for their outstanding work on this case.”

McDonnell’s legal team applauded the victory.

“We have said from the very first day that Bob McDonnell is an innocent man. After a long ordeal traversing the entire legal system, that truth has finally prevailed. We are thrilled Governor McDonnell can finally move on from the nightmare of the last three years and begin rebuilding his life,” McDonnell lawyers Hank Asbill, John Brownlee and Noel Francisco said in a statement.

Federal Court Prohibits Feds from Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Cases

Photo by Steve Neavling.

Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A federal court ruled Tuesday that the Department of Justice cannot pay to prosecute people who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

That means the DOJ cannot prosecute people who have a license to smoke medicinal marijuana, even if it violates federal drug laws, Time reports. 

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals cited a 2014 Congressional law that prohibited the Justice Department from getting involved with state medical marijuana laws.

The court sent back cases in which defendants were charged with distributing marijuana in states where it’s legal.

There already are 25 states that allow medical marijuana, and nine more states will decide on similar laws in November.

Unreasonable Police Searches Are Illegal And Happen Far Too Often

police lightsBy Steve Chapman
Chicago Tribune

The most memorable moment of the recent Democratic National Convention was when the father of a Muslim U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq demanded of Donald Trump, “Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” Conservatives, however, also revere our founding document. At the first tea party rallies in 2009, attendees waved copies.

But the Constitution is not self-enforcing, and one important section has eroded to the point of invisibility: the Fourth Amendment. It says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” In much of America, that guarantee is an empty promise.

The latest evidence came in a report on police practices in Baltimore, issued Aug. 10 by the U.S. Department of Justice after an investigation spurred by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. It documents that the city’s law enforcement officers operate with virtually no regard for the Fourth Amendment.

In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that cops may stop someone when they have reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity and, if they have reasonable grounds to think the person is armed, may frisk him lightly to detect weapons. They may not stop anyone they please, and they may not vigorously search a citizen’s clothing and body without a good reason.

The court intended to empower police only within strict limits. It emphasized, “No right is held more sacred, or is more carefully guarded, by the common law, than the right of every individual to the possession and control of his own person, free from all restraint or interference of others, unless by clear and unquestionable authority of law.”

But the Justice Department found that in Baltimore, police routinely stop people on the street without reasonable suspicion, conduct physical searches that lack adequate grounds and exceed legal limits, and arrest people without justification. Each of these practices is more than a mistake: It is a violation of fundamental liberties at the heart of what it means to be an American.

To read more click here.