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Tag: Justice Department

Judge Blocks Justice Dept. From Correcting Statement About Anthrax Suspect

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A federal judge temporarily blocked the Justice Department from correcting a court filing that undercut the FBI’s conclusion that Army researcher Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax letter attacks in 2001, PBS Frontline, McClatchy and ProPublica reported in a joint story.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley of West Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday issued a written order saying the government must “show good cause” before allowing Justice to amend the court filing.

The filing was part of a lawsuit filed by the wife of a National Enquirer photo editor Robert Stevens, claiming the government failed to do enough to protect people from an anthrax attack.

Monday’s court order  appeared more procedural than substantive.

The government in the original filing said that Ivins did not have access in the lab to the special equipment needed to make the deadly powder, the publications reported.

The Justice Department wants to correct that to say Ivin did in fact have access to the equipment at U.S. Army bio-weapons facility in Frederick, Md., where he worked.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

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EPA Agent Indicted for Allegedly Lying About Affair With FBI Agent

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former special agent with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division in Dallas was indicted Wednesday in Louisiana for allegedly lying about having an affair with an FBI agent he was working with,  the Justice Department announced.

Keith Phillips, 61, of Kent, Tex. was charged with obstruction of justice and perjury stemming from his sworn testimony in a civil case currently pending in the Western District of Louisiana.

Authorities stated that Phillips and a female FBI agent from September 1996 to Dec. 14, 1999 investigated a criminal case that resulted in the indictment of Hubert Vidrine Jr. and several others.

The criminal charges against Vidrine were ultimately dismissed, and Vidrine turned around and filed a lawsuit against the federal government for malicious prosecution, authorities said.

Authorities said that during a deposition taken in  Vidrine’s civil suit,  agent  Phillips “allegedly falsely testified that he did not have an affair with the FBI special agent, when, in fact, he did. The indictment alleges that it was material to the civil lawsuit to determine any potential motives of the criminal investigators in investigating and prosecuting the charges against Vidrine, and that Phillips committed perjury when he testified falsely about the affair and obstructed justice when he provided this false testimony.”

The indictment also alleges that he then contacted the FBI agent and tried to convince her not to confess to the affair.

‪If convicted, Phillips faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the obstruction of justice count and five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the perjury count.‪ The case is being prosecuted by Marquest J. Meeks of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and was investigated by the EPA Office of Inspector General.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Justice Dept. Declines to Re-investigate Malcolm X Assassination

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The mystery surrounding the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X may remain just that — a mystery.

The New York Times reports that the Justice Department has declined to reinvestigate the assassination. It said the statute of limitations had expired on any federal laws that might apply.

“Although the Justice Department recognizes that the murder of Malcolm X was a tragedy, both for his family and for the community he served, we have determined that at this time, the matter does not implicate federal interests sufficient to necessitate the use of scarce federal investigative resources into a matter for which there can be no federal criminal prosecution,” the department said.

The Times reported that historians have long considered the assassination in New York in February 1965 unsolved. It said some feel a bungled investigation resulted in the imprisonment of the wrong people while allowing the guilty to go uncharged.

The Times reported that a new book,  “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention”, has prompted some some advocates to push for a reopening of the case.

To read more click here.

Demjanjuk Attorney’s Accuse Justice Dept of Fraud for Withholding Key FBI Document

John Demjanjuk

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The decades-long legal case against accused Nazi John Demjanjuk won’t go away.

The Cleveland Jewish News is reporting that his defense attorneys on Tuesday filed a motion accusing the Justice Department of withholding evidence and fraud.

At the key of accusations is a 1985 FBI memo questioning the authenticity of a Nazi identity card issued to Demjanjuk, the paper reported. His lawyers say the memo could have helped exonerate him.

The motion asks U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster to rescind the court order stripping the Ohio resident of his citizenship and deporting him, the Cleveland Jewish News reported.

Demjanjuk’s legal battle began in 1977 when the U.S. tried to deport him. He was accused of being a gas chamber guard — “Ivan the Terrible” — at the concentration camp, Treblinka.

He was deported to Israel where he was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death, the Cleveland paper reported. In 1993, the Israel Supreme Court ordered Demjanjuk released because evidence indicated that another Ukrainian guard, Ivan Marchenko, was the Treblinka guard.

In 1999, he returned to the U.S. where he was charged with being a guard at other camps. He lost his citizenship for the second time and was deported to Germany in 2009 where he was recently convicted of war crimes.

The Jewish News reported that he’s been living in a Bavarian nursing home while awaiting his appeal.

Justice Dept. Filing Casts Doubt on Guilt of Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Mike Wiser, PBS FRONTLINE, Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers, and Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has called into question a key pillar of the FBI’s case against Bruce Ivins, the Army scientist accused of mailing the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and terrorized Congress a decade ago.

Shortly after Ivins committed suicide in 2008, federal investigators announced that they had identified him as the mass murderer who sent the letters to members of Congress and the media. The case was circumstantial, with federal officials arguing that the scientist had the means, motive and opportunity to make the deadly powder at a U.S. Army research facility at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Md.

On July 15, however, Justice Department lawyers acknowledged in court papers that the sealed area in Ivins’ lab — the so-called hot suite — did not contain the equipment needed to turn liquid anthrax into the refined powder that floated through congressional buildings and post offices in the fall of 2001.

The government said it continues to believe that Ivins was “more likely than not” the killer. But the filing in a Florida court did not explain where or how Ivins could have made the powder, saying only that the lab “did not have the specialized equipment’’ in Ivins’ secure lab “that would be required to prepare the dried spore preparations that were used in the letters.”

To read more click here.

Could Latest Scandal Kill ATF?

By Josh Gerstein
Politico

WASHINGTON — The unfolding scandal over a gunrunning investigation allegedly botched by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives could do what years of criticism of the long-beleaguered agency never quite accomplished — result in its demise.

That, at least, is the view of some former ATF employees and advocates on both sides of the gun control debate who have watched the agency struggle to contain the damage from an operation intended to trace the traffic of illegal guns to Mexico that has reignited the harsh criticism often directed at the ATF in the past.

The agency, which moved from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department in 2003, has been without a permanent director for nearly five years. Nominees offered by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have languished without approval from the Senate after drawing strong opposition from the National Rifle Association, which for years has been the agency’s loudest critic.

Now, with ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson hobbled by the scandal over Operation Fast and Furious and by indications he’s at odds with senior Justice Department officials, many are saying a breakup of the storied agency could just be a matter of time.

“I think something like that is likely to happen,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Unless they take some action to give it a director, it’s inevitable it’s going to have to get to that stage. It cannot continue the way it’s going now. … Right now, ATF is so weak it’s amazing.”

To read full story click here.

Pot Growers, Sellers and Distributors May be Prosecuted in Medical Marijuana States

dea photo

By Joel Rosenblatt
Bloomberg

Large-scale growers, sellers and distributors of marijuana may be prosecuted in states that have passed laws permitting medical use of the drug, according to a Justice Department memo obtained by Bloomberg News.

The June 29 memo, from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole to U.S. attorneys, says a 2009 memo issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden — referred to as the “Ogden Memo” — remains in effect.

The Ogden letter advised prosecutors that enforcement efforts against people using marijuana to treat cancer or other serious illnesses in accordance with state laws may not be “an efficient use of federal resources,” according to Cole’s memo. The Ogden memo was “never intended to shield” larger scale cultivation, Cole wrote.

To read more click here.

Despite Capture of Boston Mobster Whitey Bulger Some Question FBI; Congressman Calls Justice Dept. Probe

Updated Bulger photo/wbur

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has gotten plenty pats on the back for capturing Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, who had been on the run for 16 years and was a long-time snitch for the bureau.

But the capture has dredged up plenty of old wounds — the fact that the FBI protected Bulger while he acted as an informant. There have been allegations the FBI sabotaged cases of other agencies like the DEA to protect Bulger, who was eventually charged in 19 murders.

The Boston media has been relentless in questioning the resolve of the FBI to capture Bulger, suggesting the agency wanted to avoid what’s about to happen: A dredging up of allegations of old — and possibly new — that the agency had some crooked agents and did some highly questionable things.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) wants the Justice Department to investigate how the FBI handled Bulger. He said maybe the Justice Department can glean new information to shed more light on the matter, according to the Boston Herald.

“There may be an opportunity to gain additional information regarding the FBI’s involvement in these crimes. It remains the responsibility of the Justice Department to see that a full investigation is completed,” Lynch said in a statement to the Herald. “With the capture of Mr. Bulger, my hope is that this (arrest) will bring some closure for the families of the victims.”

Boston FBI agent John “Zip” Connolly is behind bars for his handling of  Bulger.   Connolly was convicted of racketeering  in federal court and second-degree murder in state court in Florida for helping set up the 1982  killing of  World Jai Alai boss John Callahan in Miami.  Another ex-agent was implicated in the case but died in 2004, according to the Boston Herald.

Connolly , now 70, was accused of tipping off Bulger and Stephen Flemmi that Callahan was likely to implicate them in a murder. Hitman John Martorano killed Callahan in 1982.

The questioning of the FBI’s resolve in the case prompted Boston FBI Richard DesLauriers to issue a statement on Friday:

“Any claim that the FBI knew Mr. Bulger’s whereabouts prior to the FBI’s publicity efforts this week are completely unfounded. When we learned his location, he was arrested promptly.”

Some in the media haven’t really questioned DeLauriers’ resolve, or for that matter some of his  his predecessors, but they have raised questions as to others when Bulger first went on the lam in the mid-90s.

“It may be true that the new crop of agents and federal prosecutors are clean and wanted Whitey,” wrote Michelle McPhee in the Boston Herald .

“But there are too many unanswered questions about how he got away in the first place that should make U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz want to hand this case to an independent body, so the taint of the dirty Boston FBI office of the past does not leave a stench all over the work the feds are doing in this city now.”