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Tag: Justice Department

Justice Dept. “Surprised and Disappointed” With Subpoena Issued for ATF

atf file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — No surprise, politics is surfacing inside the beltway.

The Justice Department on Friday expressed disappointment in a Congressional committee which issued a subpoena for documents from ATF on a controversial gun program,  saying it had already told the committee it planned to cooperate.

“We  are therefore surprised and disappointed when shortly after we notified your staff of our intent to work with the Committee, you nevertheless issued a subpoena a few hours later,” the Justice Department wrote Friday to the committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa. ”  Despite this unnecessary step on your part, we will review the subpoena and work with the Committee to address your concerns.”

The Justice Dept. response came on the same day  Issa, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced he had issued a subpoena to ATF after the agency failed to a meet the Wednesday deadline to handover documents pertaining to the gun-walking programs Operation Gunrunner and its offshoot, Operation Fast and Furious.

Operation Fast and Furious let straw purchasers buy guns, all with the hopes that ATF could trace them to the Mexican cartels. Unfortunately, some of the guns have been used in crimes.

The letter, written by Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Weich, also stated:

“As you know the Department has been working with the Committee to provide documents responsive to its March 16 request to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Yesterday, we informed Committee staff that we intended to produce a number of responsive documents with the next week.

“As we explained, there are some documents  that we would be unable to provide without compromising the Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into the death of agent Brian Terry as well as other investigations and prosecutions, but we would seek to work productively with the Committee to find other ways to be responsive to its needs.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, who has been pushing the issue and has been critical of ATF, issued a statement on Friday saying:

“According to more than a dozen whistleblowers from the ATF, the bureau knowingly has allowed assault weapons to be sold to these so-called straw buyers, individuals who illegally purchase firearms in the U.S. and then transport the weapons across the border to resell them to Mexican drug cartels. The ATF officials say the practice was intended to trap gun-smuggling networks operating along the southwest border who supply the violent drug –trafficking cartels in Mexico.”

“The agents warned that the practice was headed for disaster. And, their prophecy came true. Instead of intercepting the assault rifles and hand-pistols, the firearms allegedly were allowed to “walk” across the border, without U.S. interdiction, delivering thousands of guns into violent, drug networks in Mexico.

“Tragically, those who might have given the green light to the ill-conceived strategy may now have the blood of U.S. federal agents on their hands.”

“In December, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in a shoot-out along the southwest border near Tucson, Arizona. Two AK-47 type assault rifles found at the scene were among the firearms purchased illegally under an operation known as “Fast and Furious.” The murder of another federal agent in February also may have ties to this practice. Special Agent Jaime Zapata of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was attacked and killed, with a gun purchased by an alleged straw buyer, while on assignment in Mexico.”

Rep. Issa Explains Why He Issued a Subpoena

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36E8WTZRgNo

FBI Casts Wide Net Under Relaxed Rules for Terror Probes

By Charlie Savage
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Within months after the Bush administration relaxed limits on domestic-intelligence gathering in late 2008, the F.B.I. assessed thousands of people and groups in search of evidence that they might be criminals or terrorists, a newly disclosed Justice Department document shows.

In a vast majority of those cases, F.B.I. agents did not find suspicious information that could justify more intensive investigations. The New York Times obtained the data, which the F.B.I. had tried to keep secret, after filing a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.

The document, which covers the four months from December 2008 to March 2009, says the F.B.I. initiated 11,667 “assessments” of people and groups. Of those, 8,605 were completed. And based on the information developed in those low-level inquiries, agents opened 427 more intensive investigations, it says.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Judge Tosses Ex-Fed Prosecutor’s Case Against Justice Dept.

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department won a legal battle against one of its own.

A D.C. federal judge on Thursday dismissed a whistleblower lawsuit by ex-Detroit federal prosecutor Richard Convertino against the Justice Department. The lawsuit alleged that the Justice leaked damaging information about an internal Justice probe into Convertino.

U.S. District Judge Royce C.  Lamberth ruled that  Convertino, after seven years, had failed to show that a Justice Department employee had leaked to  Detroit Free Press  reporter David Ashenfelter information about a Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility Probe into Covertino’s actions during a high-profile terrorism case.  Ashenfelter published a story about the probe.

The ruling was first reported in the Detroit News.

“Despite seven years of dedicated effort, Convertino is no closer to identifying the source(s) of the leak today than he was when this litigation commenced,” the judge wrote in a ruling.

“In sum, Convertino has made a monumental effort to identify Ashenfelter’s source(s) and has had absolutely no success. Moreover, OIG (Office of Inspector General) conducted its own extensive investigation into the identity of the source(s) and was equally unsuccessful. After seven years of litigation, then, Convertino cannot answer the question that lies at the heart of [his] case.”

David Ashenfelter

“Without knowledge of the leaker’s identity, Convertino cannot establish that DOJ acted willfully or intentionally,” the ruling said.

Convertino convicted three people who were suspected of being part of a terrorist sleeper cell in Detroit. They were arrested right after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the case became national news.

In fact, then-Attorney Gen.  John Ashcroft mistakenly said initially that the men had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.  He later corrected the misstatement.

But the convictions were overturned and he was criminally charged with misconduct in the case.  He was eventually acquitted. The entire case created serious tensions in the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s Office.

During the course of his whistleblower lawsuit, Convertino deposed Ashenfelter, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter, but failed to get him to disclose his source.

Convertino continually insisted during the lawsuit that a particular assistant U.S. Attorney had leaked the info to the Free Press. But an internal Justice Department probe failed to confirm that.

Herschel Fink, attorney for the Free Press, told Free Press reporter Joe Swickard that the decision was “a very good development for journalism … and the ability for a journalist to protect his sources.”

The Free Press said Convertino, who is in private practice, did not return calls for comment.

Read Opinion

Scientists in Anthrax Case Still Have Doubts and Questions

One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Like the JFK assassination, the mystery and the persistent questions about anthrax killings in 2001, won’t go away.

The latest is a detailed article in the magazine WIRED, by Noah Shactman, who writes that scientists involved in helping the FBI crack the deadly mystery still have lingering doubts and questions about the probe that concluded that civilian government scientist Bruce Ivins mailed the letters that killed five people and sickened 17 others.  Ivins committed suicide in July 2008 before prosecutors could file charges.

Schactman writes that Clair Fraser-Liggett, a  genetic specialist in Maryland who led the team that sequenced the DNA of the anthrax in the letters,  has reservations.  “There are still some holes,” she told the author.

In Flagstaff, Arizona, scientist Paul Keim, who first identified the anthrax strain in the case, told WIRED: “I don’t know if Ivins sent the letters.” The author also spoke to FBI agent Edward Montooth, who headed up the investigation, who said he’s convinced Ivins mailed the letters but he’s uncertain about the motivation and when he concocted the deadly anthrax.

“We still have a difficult time nailing down the time frame,” he says. “We don’t know when he made or dried the spores.”

The WIRED article was posted on the website on Thursday, just days after the FBI got some welcoming news from a report by the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel, which concluded Ivins’  psychiatric records “does support the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s)determination that he was responsible.”  A federal judge had ordered the panel to review the case and Ivins.

The FBI and Justice Department have faced a wave of skepticism from politicians on Capitol Hill, Ivins’ attorney and Ivins fellow scientists at Ft. Detrick in Maryland, who question whether Ivins was actually the culprit.

Their skepticism was bolstered in February by  a 170-page report by the National Research Council, which  found that the Justice Department overstated its case when it definitively concluded that the anthrax used in the deadly mailings came from a flask from Ivins’ laboratory at Fort Detrick labeled RMR-1029. The report, which was commissioned by the FBI,  said it did not rule out other possible sources.

“The scientific link between the letter material and flask number RMR-1029 is not as conclusive as stated in the DOJ Investigative Summary,” the report said.

However, Lehigh University President Alice P. Gast, who led the 16-member National Research Council Committee that reviewed the cutting-edge science used in the investigation, said: “We find the scientific evidence to be consistent with their conclusions but not as definitive as stated.

To read the full WIRED story click here.

Watchdog Group Sues Justice Dept. For Failing to Release Investigative Documents on Tom DeLay

Ex-Rep. Tom DeLay

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A government watchdog group — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) — wants to figure out why ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was never prosecuted federally.

CREW filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in D.C. against the Justice Department for failing to release records of the FBI probe into DeLay. On Oct. 19, the watchdog group said it filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA)  with the Justice Department and the FBI for investigative records relating to DeLay, convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others, and reasons why authorities did not prosecute him.

“Rep. Tom DeLay spent years turning the House of Representatives into his personal casino, and yet shockingly was never federally prosecuted. The American people deserve to know why,”  CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.

“The DeLay case is just one in a string of troubling instances where the Department of Justice has declined to prosecute blatantly corrupt politicians,”  Sloan said. “The department doesn’t even want the public to know why it didn’t prosecute. If Rep. DeLay’s actions really were not criminal, shouldn’t DOJ be happy to turn over its records and prove that? Why all the secrecy?”

Texas authorities convicted DeLay on state charges in a scheme in which he illegally helped funnel corporate contributions to Republican Texas legislative candidates. He was sentenced in January to three years in prison, but remains free pending his appeal.

CREW said in a press release that the Justice Department denied the FOIA request because the release of records would interfere with open law enforcement proceedings.

“Yet DOJ told Rep. DeLay in August 2010 it had closed its investigation of him. In addition, the FBI argued releasing records would violate Rep. DeLay’s privacy, failing to take into account that he was a government official and there has been significant public interest in his conduct, the investigation, and DOJ’s decision not to prosecute,” the release said.

The Justice Department on Wednesday morning did not immediately respond for comment.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Justice Dept. Collects Only a Teeny Fraction of Swindlers’ Fines

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Since the year 2000, the government has only collected about two cents on the dollar from hundreds of the nation’s biggest swindlers who were fined by federal judges, USA Today reports.

A USA Today reported that its analysis of Justice Department records shows the difficulty of the Justice Department collecting fines from scam artists who profited from the housing and financial crises.

“A vast number of these cases … there will never be any money collected,” Ray Hassett, a Connecticut lawyer who used to supervise collection efforts for the U.S. attorney’s office there said, according to USA Today.

The paper examined 258 cases since 2000 in which judges ordered a criminal to pay $25 million in fines or more. Some some thieves paid what amounted to less than a speeding ticket, USA Today reported.

The paper reported that the biggest judgments totaled about $30 billion, the Justice Department has only collected about $660 million so far.

To read more click here.

Justice Department has to Read Prosecutor’s Steamy Sex Scenes

photo/stephen spiegelhalter

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — Officials in the buttoned-down world of the Justice Department, accustomed to dull legal briefs and just-the-facts indictments, are getting a dose of steamy sex scenes on their reading list.

That’s because assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Leotta, a D.C. sex crimes prosecutor, recently landed a three-book deal with Simon & Schuster. Her first suspense novel “Law of Attraction,” released in October, included some hot sex scenes. Her second novel, in the works, already promises more of the same.

And her bosses have to read each manuscript before publication to check for any breach of security issues.

“It was embarrassing to me,” Leotta, 37, said of the screening of the first book by the Justice officials. “There were some steamy sex scenes, not the sort of thing I’d discuss with my boss and ethics officials at the Justice Department. It made rides in the elevator a little uncomfortable for a while.”

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

NY FBI Cuts Agents Probing Mafia Weeks After Big Bust


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Mob reporter Jerry Capeci of the website Gang Land News writes in a story posted Thursday:

“Did the Justice Department just orchestrate a bait-and-switch scam on a gullible, eager-to-believe citizenry? Six weeks after the feds loudly proclaimed that they are still pursuing mobsters with a vengeance, the FBI has quietly cut the number of New York squads that investigate the notorious Five Families.”

Capeci, a former N.Y. Daily News reporter, reports that there used to be an FBI squad for each of New York’s five crime families. Now it’s down to three.

“It’s not just re-organizing either,” Capeci writes. “The total number of mob-busting agents is also cut by some 25 per cent, Gang Land has learned.

Gang Land reports that the cuts mean the N.Y. FBi only has about 45 agents investigating roughly 700 mobsters and another 7,000 associates.

The report comes just weeks after the Justice Department, with much fanfare, announced the biggest mobster round up in FBI history after it indicted 127 people in the Northeast.

To read more click here. (Gang Land is a Pay-Website)