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Archive for March 1st, 2009

Feds In San Francisco Go After Death Penalty For First Time Since 1948

Interestingly, the Justice Department trumped the local U.S. Attorney and decided to go for the death penalty in one of these cases even though the local U.S. Attorney had already worked out a plea agreement.  The Bush Administration was not shy about pushing the death penalty, but that’s likely to change under the Obama regime. In fact, it’s expected  that the new Justice Department may turn around and let the original guilty plea stand for one of the defendants.

By Bob Egelko
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO — For the first time since 1948, lives are at stake in a San Francisco federal courtroom.

Two alleged gang members went on trial before separate juries last week, each accused of three murders as part of a racketeering enterprise to control local drug trafficking. The Justice Department is seeking the death penalty for both defendants, in one case over the objections of the U.S. attorney’s office, which had agreed on a 40-year prison sentence.
They are the first two federal death penalty trials in California’s Northern District, based in San Francisco, since two Alcatraz inmates were convicted, sentenced to death and executed in the San Quentin gas chamber in 1948 for an escape attempt two years earlier in which two guards and three prisoners were killed.

They’re also the first life-or-death trials of any kind in San Francisco since 1991, when a convicted murderer was sentenced to death in Superior Court.

For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Mexican Drug Cartels Get Their Way (N.Y. Times)

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller to Visit Pakistan

Director Robert Mueller III

Director Robert Mueller III

During the J. Edgar Hoover days it would have been shocking to hear that the big guy was taking a little trip to Pakistan. But in this jet-setting era, and at  a time the FBI has expanded its role around the world, it doesn’t seem that far fetched for a director to head off to a far off land like Pakistan.

By Agence France Press
ISLAMABAD — The director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will lead a team visiting Pakistan next month to help investigate the Mumbai attacks, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

New Delhi blamed the attacks, which killed 165 people last November, on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the siege soured a five-year peace process between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

“Headed by Robert Mueller, the team will arrive in Pakistan on March 4,” foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit told a press briefing in Islamabad.
For Full Story

MSNBC at 10 p.m. Sunday: DEA Goes Undercover in Baltimore to Bust Pill Pushers

Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Calls For U.S. To Step It Up In Helping Mexico With Drug War

Mexican drugs seized in large-scale DEA operation/dea photo

Mexican drugs seized in large-scale DEA operation/dea photo

The paper’s editorial calls for action now to take on the violent Mexican drug cartels that pose great dangers to the U.S. Sec. of Defense Robert Gates said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that the U.S. is in a position to help Mexico with training, resources, surveillance and intelligence. Well, no better time than the present to act.

By The Philadelphia Inquirer
Imagine if murders in Philadelphia tripled. Imagine if they quadrupled. Imagine living in Juarez, Mexico. With a population about the same as Philadelphia’s 1.4 million, Juarez had 1,600 murders last year; Philadelphia had 332.

Last month, Juarez had more than 80 murders. If you think that sounds like a war zone, you would be right. Juarez is on the front lines of the so-called war on drugs. That multi-decade misadventure has filled U.S. prisons with thousands of drug-law violators, but hasn’t done enough to stem our demand for drugs.

Overall drug use among America’s youth is down 25 percent since 2001, according to a University of Michigan study. But 32 percent of 12th graders said they used marijuana over the past year.

To Read Entire Editorial

FBI Surveillance Making LA Area Muslims Apprehensive

The FBI is walking a tightrope these days when it comes to ties to Muslim communities in the U.S. Last summer, it cut off official ties to CAIR, a Islamic advocacy group because of its ties to Hamas. And the Muslim communities’ distrust of the FBI in the post-9/11 era is still real. The FBI needs the relationships and will have to  figure out ways to improve on them.

By Teresa Watanabe and Paloma Esquivel
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — The Islamic Center of Irvine is a beige stucco building that blends into the rows of office buildings surrounding it. But last week, it became the most publicized mosque in California with disclosures that the FBI sent an informant there to spy and collect evidence of jihadist rhetoric and other allegedly extremist acts by a Tustin man who attended prayers there.

The revelations dismayed mosque members like Omar Turbi, 50, and his 27-year-old son who shares his name. After Friday prayer service last week, while hundreds of others scurried back to work, the pair stood with their backs to a wall and mulled over the news.

“It gives you a little bit of apprehension about who you trust,” the elder Turbi said. “Makes you think twice about what you say; what if people misunderstand you?”

Turbi’s fears were echoed by other Muslims throughout Southern California last week. Some say a climate of suspicion toward them, fueled by 9/11 and underscored by the latest disclosures of FBI surveillance, is inhibiting their freedoms of speech and faith.

For Full Story

History: J. Edgar Hoover’s Rule Over the FBI