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Tag: Justice Department

Column: Public Hearing on Anthrax Case May be Inevitable

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Though the FBI and Justice Department are thoroughly convinced that scientist Bruce Ivins mailed the deadly anthrax letters in 2001, it seems almost inevitable now that some very costly and protracted public hearing will be conducted to review the whole case.  Unfortunately, Ivins killed himself in July 2008 before any charges could be filed against him.

The case once again came alive on Tuesday when the National Research Council released a 170-page report commissioned by the FBI that showed that the Justice Department and FBI  overstated their case when they definitively concluded that the anthrax used in the deadly mailings came from a flask from Ivins’  government laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland labeled RMR-1029. The report said it could 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.”

Unfortunately,  the study only examined  the sciences in the investigation and didn’t taken into account other key aspects — interviews, the behavior of Ivins, fingerprints, etc. And it avoided at all costs the thing everyone really wanted it to do: Say whether Ivins was the guy.

I spoke to folks on Tuesday at the FBI and Justice Department who insist, in totality, the evidence against Ivins is overwhelming, that the science was only a component of the investigation.

But I also spoke to Ivins attorney Paul Kemp who insisted the study showed the government’s smoking gun — the flask —  was merely smoke and mirrors. He wants a public review, possibly a Congressional hearing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley  (R-Ia.) chimed in on Tuesday and insisted it was time for a public review as did Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J).

It may not be what the FBI and Justice Department want. But they may have no say in the matter. The cries of the skeptics may be too much too ignore. And maybe a hearing would satisfy the skeptics — and maybe not.

Report Raises Some Doubts About the Origin of the Killer Anthrax; Triggers Calls For Independent Review of Entire Case

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — A report released Tuesday on the scientific methods used to investigate the deadly anthrax attacks disputes a key conclusion by the FBI — and has triggered calls for an independent review of the entire case.

Investigators have concluded that government scientist Bruce Ivins mailed anthrax-laden letters to members of Congress and the media in 2001. Five people were killed and 17 others sickened. Ivins committed suicide in July 2008 before charges could be filed.

Ivins’ attorney said the new report casts doubt on the allegations against the scientist.

“The smoking gun is now just smoke and mirrors,” Paul F. Kemp told AOL News. “Every time more gets released it shows more weakness in their case. I think it’s time for a public hearing for somebody to systematically and carefully and dispassionately review this.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley also called for an independent review.

To read more click here.

Washington Post Editorial Praises Justice. Dept. IG Glenn Fine

Glenn Fine/doj photo

By The Washington Post
Editorial Page

WASHINGTON — THE JOB of inspector general is often a thankless one, requiring the ability to make unflinching and crucial assessments that are not always well received by colleagues.

The Justice Department employed one of the best for the past decade in the person of Glenn A. Fine, who recently stepped down.

Mr. Fine was instrumental in unearthing problems and identifying solutions in the mammoth agency since joining the IG’s office in the mid-1990s. He took over the reins in 2000 and led investigations into all facets of the department’s operations.

He documented the FBI’s early abuse of national security letters – powerful tools issued without judicial review and used to obtain information from individuals and corporations alike. He later produced an authoritative review lauding FBI leaders for significant improvements. This latter report was credible in part because Mr. Fine did not pull punches in his original criticism.

To read more click here.

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Cross Burnings — Symbols of Hate — Know No Boundaries

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Cross burnings which once symbolized the pervasive racism in parts of the South decades ago, is apparently not a thing of the past, and apparently knows no boundaries.

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced that Michael Francis Bealonis,19, of Robinson, Pa. pleaded guilty in federal court in Pittsburgh to burning a 6-foot cross in November 2009 in the backyard of someone in his neighborhood.

Bealonis pleaded guilty to burning the cross at the home of a family that had three minor children, one of whom was an adopted African American.

“This teen used an unmistakable symbol of bigotry and hate to threaten a family with violence simply because the race of a child,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.” These incidents have no place in our country, and they are a reminder of the civil rights challenges we still face today.”

Sentencing is set for May 25.

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FBI Searching for Assets in U.S. of Ousted Tunisian Pres. Ben Ali

Ousted Pres. Ben Ali

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is trying to figure out if ousted Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and other officials have assets in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reports.

Agents, along with a new Justice Department team, are looking for “proceeds of theft by foreign officials,” the Journal reported.

The paper reported that European nations have moved to freeze funds of Ben Ali they believe were stolen from his country.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia after he was ousted.

13 States Ask Justice Dept. to Help Find Execution Drug


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — States around the country are turning to the Justice Department for help in locating an execution drug, the Associated Press reports.

AP reported that 13 states signed a letter sent to the Justice Department asking for help scoring sodium thiopental after the only U.S. manufacturer stopped producing it and the overseas supplies became scarce.

The states that signed the letter included: Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Justice Department spokeswoman Alisa Finelli told AP that the agency is reviewing the letter.

Sen. Kennedy’s Office Manager Convicted of Stealing More than $75,000

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON – A former office manager for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy could be off to prison.

A federal jury in Washington on Tuesday convicted Ngozi T. Pole, 40,of Waldorf, Md., of stealing more than $75,000 by paying himself unauthorized bonuses, the Justice Department said. Specifically, he was convicted of five counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government property.

As office manager, authorities said, Pole’s responsibilities included transmitting salary information to the Senate Disbursing Office in order to adjust the pay of employees in the senator’s office.

Authorities charged that Pole beginning in at least 2003 and continuing until January 2007, repeatedly submitted paperwork causing the Senate to pay him larger bonus payments than had been approved by either the chief of staff or Senator Kennedy.

Pole hid the unauthorized payments “by repeatedly transmitting information to the chief of staff that falsely showed that he received only those payments that had been authorized,” authorities said.

“Today, a federal jury found Mr. Pole guilty of using his position as a Congressional staffer to steal more than $75,000 of government money,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division said in a statement.

“Employees of Congress are entrusted with performing their duties honestly and ethically. While hundreds of them live up to that important duty every day, we will, as today’s verdict shows, hold accountable those few who use their positions to illegally enrich themselves.”

Authorities said Kennedy’s staff fully cooperated in the probe. Sentencing is set for July 14.

Washington Post Editorial: Prison Rape: Justice Dept. Still Has Long Way to Go to End It

By The Washington Post
Editorial

WASHINGTON — THE LATE SEN. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) did not agree on much. So it was remarkable when they joined to champion the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).

Enacted in 2003, the landmark law was meant to address the scourge of sexual abuse behind bars that for too long had been accepted as an unavoidable byproduct of incarceration. It is not. Incidences of sexual abuse represent egregious lapses in institutional order and security. They are inhumane and inexcusable violations that scar tens of thousands of adult and juvenile inmates each year, often complicating their ability to reintegrate into society.

Last week, the Justice Department took an important, long-overdue but still inadequate step toward fulfilling PREA’s promise. In releasing draft regulations to implement the landmark legislation, the department closely tracked many of the recommendations of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, the congressionally created panel that spent some six years studying the problem.

To read more click here.

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