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Archive for March 4th, 2009

Congressman Rush Holt Wants an Anthrax Commission to Investigate the Investigation

Rep. Rush Holt
Rep. Rush Holt

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON – The anthrax caper just won’t go away.
Rep Rush Holt (D-N.J.) on Tuesday introduced legislation to create a Congressional commission to investigate the government’s response to the 2001 anthrax attacks that left five dead and sickened 17.

The legislation, the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act of 2009, would set up a bipartisan commission that would make recommendations to the President and Congress on “how the country can best prevent and respond to any future bio-terrorism attacks”, according to Holt’s office.

“All of us – but especially the families of the victims of the anthrax attacks – deserve credible answers about how the attacks happened and whether the case really is closed,” Holt said in a prepared statement.

“The Commission, like the 9/11 Commission, would do that, and it would help American families know that the government is better prepared to protect them and their children from future bio-terrorism attacks.”

“Myriad questions remain about the anthrax attacks and the government’s bungled response to the attacks,” Holt said.

Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office, declined to comment on Wednesday on the bill.

The FBI spent years and millions of dollars following countless leads around the world centering on what turned out to be the wrong suspect- scientist Steven Hatfill. Internally, many in law enforcement circles privately blamed the lead FBI investigator for fixating on Hatfill and not looking beyond him.

That FBI investigator was eventually replaced and last summer FBI and Postal Inspectors began closing in on someone they believed was the real culprit — scientist Dr. Bruce Ivins. Ivins committed suicide before any charges were filed.

The deadly laced anthrax letters were apparently sent from a postal box in Rep. Holt’s district in Central New Jersey.

My Contacts With Chandra Levy’s Suspected Killer

Sylvia Moreno

Sylvia Moreno

By Sylvia Moreno
for ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — I’ve been asked the question many times by former Washington Post colleagues, by the Spanish-language press and by friends and acquaintances: do I believe Ingmar Guandique killed Chandra Levy?

What I can say for sure is that in letters that Guandique wrote me from federal prison in 2002, 2007 and 2008 and in two hour-long telephone interviews in ’07 and ‘08, is that he steadfastly denied any involvement in the murder of what he called “that girl — what’s her name — Chandra.”

Now the grisly details of the young woman’s murder – supplied by Guandique himself to several unnamed ‘witnesses” cited in a court document – have been revealed by local and federal law enforcement authorities. This week, those officials issued an arrest warrant charging the Salvadoran immigrant with first-degree murder.

The accounts, according to the affidavit filed in support of the arrest warrant, vary slightly but all attest to Guandique’s involvement in one of Washington’s most famous unsolved murders:

  • Guandique told one unnamed witness that he killed a young woman in Washington.
  • To another witness, Guandique said he and two of his friends saw a female jogger in Rock Creek Park with thick, dark hair, jumped her and dragged her from the path into a secluded area, knocking her unconscious. He said they gagged her, then raped her, and that he cut her throat and stabbed her when she woke up during the rape.
  • Guandique told a third witness that he and two of his friends saw a female with curly hair along a Rock Creek Park trail; grabbed her and pushed her into the bushes; choked her to death; then buried her under leaves.
  • To yet another witness and as early as 2002, Guandique admitted to killing Levy, claiming others were involved in the murder too. (A former cellmate of Guandique recounted that story to me during an interview).

My last assignment for The Washington Post, before taking a buy-out offered to employees in mid-2008, was to communicate with Guandique and his local friends and family as part of a 13-part series published last July.

But my involvement in the story began in summer, 2002 when Guandique’s name first surfaced as a potential suspect. I found and interviewed his family in El Salvador and his friends and relatives in D.C.

I wrote to Guandique in federal prison, where he was already being held in September, 2002 for attacking two female joggers in Rock Creek Park, and we corresponded in Spanish for several months. When I resumed the correspondence in 2007, he replied immediately, and after a couple of letters, he consented to a visit, as he had in 2002.

Most of Guandique’s letters began with a salutation hoping that I was in good health and with his desire that I also be “surrounded by my family and friends.” All the letters bore the trademarks of a man with little education: misspellings, grammatical mistakes and nonsensical syntax.

He always maintained his innocence regarding the murder of Levy, but he admitted to breaking into a house in Washington to rob jewelry. He admitted getting into drugs and disregarding his family’s pleas that he focus on work so he could send money home.

He admitted hitting and biting his then-girlfriend in Washington. And he admitted attacking the two women joggers, who managed to break his grasp and run away, for the purpose only, he claimed, of robbing them of their valuables.

He wrote several times that he wanted me to visit him in prison, at one point saying he wanted to “clarify” this Chandra Levy problem hanging over his head.

But neither his attorney, in 2002, nor prison officials, more recently, allowed a face-to-face interview. The Post had to settle for two hour-long recorded telephone interviews, and excerpts of those ran online last summer as part of The Post’s investigative series, “Who Killed Chandra Levy.” To date, I am the only journalist who has communicated directly with Guandique.

Do I believe Ingmar Guandique killed Chandra Levy? Certainly, a man convicted of attacking two women on jogging paths in Rock Creek Park and identified by another woman as stalking her in the park — all within the proximity of where Levy’s remains were found in summer, 2002 – would seem to be a logical and likely suspect. That’s my response to the question.

In a 2002 letter to his mother and grandfather, who live in grinding poverty in rural El Salvador, Guandique asked their pardon for disappointing them by getting into trouble and failing to do what they expected when they borrowed more than $4,000 to get him into the United States illegally. They wanted him to work and send money home to help support more than half a dozen family members living in a dirt-floor shack.

To his brother, Huber, who then lived in suburban Maryland, Guandique wrote that “God is the only one who knows that I am innocent” of Levy’s murder and that one day “God will take care of everything.”

In our last conversation, Guandique said “Like I tell you, I know I don’t have anything to do with that case. I don’t worry about that because I know everything will turn out fine.” Now, a judge and jury will decide that.

Nathan T. Gray Named Head of FBI’s Phoenix Office

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — Nathan T. Gray, a native Kansan and 18-year veteran of the FBI has been named special agent in charge of the bureau’s Phoenix Division.
Gray has served in various field offices including Houston and Cincinnati.
In 1997, he was promoted to a supervisory position in the Organized Crime Section at headquarters and was detailed to the CIA’s Crime and Narcotics Center, the FBI said.
In 2000, he became a supervisor of the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Squad in Columbus, Ohio.
After Sept. 11, 2001, he was temporarily posted in the Islamabad and Riyadh Legal Attache Offices, the FBI said.
In 2006, he was named special agent in charge of the Charlotte office.

More than a Dozen New Justice Attorneys Have Conflicts of Interest in Guantanomo Cases

As one might expect, new regimes that bring in private attorneys to do government work can bump up against conflict of interests. Here’s one of which I’m certain will not be the the last conflict of interest issue the Justice Department will have to deal with.

Joe Palazzolo
Legal Times
WASHINGTON – More than a dozen new Justice Department lawyers have come from private firms representing Guantanamo Bay detainees, creating potential conflicts of interest as the agency begins its review of roughly 245 men imprisoned at the military detention center.

The Justice Department has taken steps to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Ethics officials have advised lawyers — including Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. — to recuse themselves in matters involving detainees represented by their former firms.

“As a general rule, DOJ officials will not participate in reviews of specific detainees who their firms represented, consistent with ethics rules,” Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said in an e-mailed statement.

For Full Story

Results of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Program Not Good Report Says

This program has opened up the door for endless abuses. Local and state police officers, who are supposed to use this program to round up illegal immigrants committing serious crimes, are instead nabbing folks who urinate in public or speed. That’s not how the program was supposed to work.
By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Immigration officials have failed to develop “key internal controls” over a controversial program that trains state and local police to identify illegal immigrants involved in crime, so some departments are focusing on minor violations rather than on serious offenses, according to federal investigators.

A Government Accountability Office report released last night was requested by congressional oversight panels in advance of hearings on the program to be held today by the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Known as 287(g) after the legal provision authorizing it, the identification program has expanded rapidly in recent years, receiving $60 million between 2006 and 2008, training 951 state and local law enforcement officers in 67 agencies — including the police forces of counties including Prince William — and resulting in the arrests of at least 43,000 immigrants, almost 28,000 of whom ultimately were ordered out of the country.

For Full Story