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Archive for April 29th, 2009

Sen. Specter’s Switch May Not Impact Appointments of Judges and U.S. Attorneys

When it comes to appointments of judges and U.S. Attorneys, not all that much may change simply because Sen. Arlen Specter has changed parties.  He often exercised independence and is likely to continue on that path.specter-front-page

David Ingram
Legal Times
WASHINGTON — Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party brings his new colleagues a little closer to controlling 60 seats in the Senate, but it’s not clear that the switch will have much of an effect on the fate of nominees for the federal bench and the Justice Department.

Lawyers and lobbyists who follow the Senate Judiciary Committee have long said that it’s difficult to predict how Specter will vote on nominees — even when he asks critical questions of them in confirmation hearings. On Tuesday the Pennsylvanian vowed not to change his approach.

“I will not be changing my own personal independence or my own approach to individual issues. I will not be an automatic 60th vote,” Specter told reporters, referring to the votes needed to invoke cloture and cut off Senate debate. He added later, “I have always agreed with John Kennedy that sometimes parties ask too much. And if the Democratic Party asks too much, I will not hesitate to disagree and vote my independent thinking.”

In fact, Specter provided a fresh example of that independence Tuesday, saying for the first time that he is “opposed” to the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to be assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel.

Her confirmation is a priority for the Democratic Party’s base, in part because the office has been at the center of the battle over interrogation policies.

For Full Story

Family Endures Pain of Missing ex-FBI Agent Robert Levinson

Robert Levinson

Robert Levinson

Are Iranian officials hiding this man? That is the big question.

By Lisa J. Huriash
South Florida Sun Sentinel
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. – Every day, one of Robert Levinson’s seven children cries for him and turns to the others for emotional support.

“The rest of us will console the one who’s upset,” said Dan Levinson, 23, the oldest son. “Everybody takes turns breaking down about it. Everybody tries to stay strong for the others. It just gets to you. It’s been two years, it’s been very frustrating.”

In March 2007, Robert Levinson, of Coral Springs, disappeared from Kish Island, a Persian Gulf resort that is also a smuggling hub. His family said the retired FBI agent, who was working as a private investigator, traveled there for a cigarette smuggling case.

Since then, Christine Levinson has devoted her time and energy to finding her husband and bringing him home. She flew to Tehran to pass out fliers written in Farsi, and hired an attorney there to file paperwork urging the government to open an investigation. She also traveled to Washington, D.C., on a mission to get diplomatic support to pressure Iranian officials to cooperate.
For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Three In Ft. Dix Terorrism Case Get Life Sentences

The defendants insist they are innocent. The government insists the defendants were planning a massacre. The judge was convinced of their guilt and expressed concern that they showed no remorse.

By Troy Graham
Philadelphia Inquirer
ftdix31 CAMDEN, N.J. — Three of the five men convicted of plotting a terrorist attack on Fort Dix were sentenced to life in prison yesterday, and two of them were given an additional 30 years for gun charges.

All three of the Duka brothers – Dritan, Eljvir and Shain – vociferously proclaimed their innocence before their sentences were announced.

At the end of his statement, Eljvir Duka, 25, turned toward his large family, seated in the gallery, and urged them to “be patient, don’t worry.”

“Being in prison and knowing you’re innocent is a great feeling in the sight of God,” he said. “The government knows what they did.”

District Court Judge Robert B. Kugler noted that the defendants showed no remorse for their actions, and said “a harsh, punitive sentence is necessary.”

For Full Story

Nevada Man Pleads Guilty to Sending Threatening E-Mails to Va. Tech Students

emailsThe Internet has opened up endless possibilities for deranged people. The upside is, law enforcement was able to intervene before something potentially horrific happened.

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
ROANOKE, Va. — A Nevada man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to sending threatening e-mails to two Virginia Tech students in which he glorified Seung Hui Cho’s 2007 shooting rampage at the university.

Johnmarlo Balasta Napa, 28, idolized Cho, bought the same weapons Cho used in the shootings and then sent the threatening e-mails on the eve of the first anniversary of the day Cho killed 32 people and then himself, federal agents testified.

Bart McEntire, who worked on the case as a supervisory special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said after the hearing that agents believe that Napa was planning a school shooting when he was arrested.

The e-mails, sent from seunghuichorevenge@yahoo.com, included photographs of Cho depicted as a hero, parodies of the victims and a picture of Cho holding paper dolls with photos of the faces of the two students along with the people he killed. They also had excerpts of the manifesto Cho sent to a TV network before his shootings.

For Full Story

Civil Liberties Groups Express Concern Over New System to Uncover Potential Terrorism Plots

This new system is inviting concerns from civil liberty groups. The question is: Is there a way to strike up a balance between security concerns and citizen rights? We’ll see how this one plays out.aclu

By Eric Schmitt
New York Times
LOS ANGELES-– A growing number of big-city police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the country are embracing a new system to report suspicious activities that officials say could uncover terrorism plots but that civil liberties groups contend might violate individual rights.

Here and in nearly a dozen other cities, including Boston, Chicago and Miami, officers are filling out terror tip sheets if they run across activities in their routines that seem out of place, like someone buying police or firefighter uniforms, taking pictures of a power plant or espousing extremist views.

Ultimately, state and federal officials intend to have a nationwide reporting system in place by 2014, using a standardized system of codes for suspicious behaviors. It is the most ambitious effort since the Sept. 11 attacks to put in place a network of databases to comb for clues that might foretell acts of terrorism.

But the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups warn that the program pioneered by the Los Angeles Police Department raises serious privacy and civil liberties concerns.

For Full Story

Chicago Deputy U.S. Marshal Convicted of Leaking to the Mob

chicago3

His father, a Chicago cop, went off to jail many years ago. Now son John Ambrose is headed there. A sad legacy.

BY NATASHA KORECKI
Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — Deputy U.S. Marshal John Ambrose was convicted today (Tuesday) on charges that he leaked secret government information that made its way to the mob.

A federal jury found Ambrose guilty of one count of theft of information and one count of illegal disclosure of information but found him innocent on two counts of lying to federal agents.

Ambrose wiped away tears after the verdict and embraced his wife.

Ambrose, 42, is a decorated deputy marshal who has hunted down national and international fugitives. He was the second highest ranking member of a regional fugitive task force. The verdict delivers Ambrose a similar fate of that of his father, who was convicted in the 1980s with police corruption in a case known as the Marquette 10. The elder Ambrose died in prison.

Both Ambrose and his father had the same judge.

For Full Story