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Archive for July, 2010

Mueller Says Agents Are Helping in Probe into Leaks of Afghanistan Documents

Mueller testifying on Wed./ticklethewire.com photo

Mueller testifying on Wed./ticklethewire.com photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said Wednesday that his agents were assisting the Department of Defense in a controversial leak investigation into the ream of documents that were leaked on the Afghanistan war.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he also acknowledged a Justice Department probe into the possibility that agents around the country may have cheated on an open book test on FBI procedures. When pressed, he said it was unclear how many agents were involved, but the Associated Press reported that the Justice Department was looking at hundreds of agents to determine whether they cheated.

He also told Senators that that agents were not targeting people for investigations based on race, contrary to allegations by some groups.

In all, the exchanges between Mueller and Senators was amicable and several complimented him for being an outstanding public servant.

Mueller diplomatically sidestepped a question by Sen. Al Franken, who asked him his opinion on whether “enhanced” interrogation techniques in questioning terrorists was effective. Mueller simply said that he felt the FBI’s techniques — which do not involve torture — were effective.

Judgment Day For Ex-Illinois Gov Blago

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s judgment day for ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Federal jurors in his public corruption case are expected to get jury instructions on Wednesday and then begin deliberating. Deliberations are likely to take several days and go into next week.

In closing arguments, his attorney Sam Adam Jr. portrayed the ex-governor as a victim with “absolutely horrible judgement in people” who was misled by top advisers and was the target of scalp-hunting FBI agents, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Prosecutors painted him as a seasoned lawyer who refused to take responsibility for his actions as if he was “somehow the accidentally corrupt governor,” the Tribune reported.

“We are all responsible for our own actions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar said in closings, according to the Tribune.

Blago’s attorney Adams said: “I’m not trying to belittle this — much. But these are the feds, and this is what they bring you? Come on!”

More Scandal: Justice Dept. Investigating Whether 100s of FBI Agents Cheated on Open Book Test

fbi logo largeBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — There appears to be more scandal in the air relating to allegations of FBI agents cheating on an open book test.

The Associated Press is reporting that the Justice Department is investigating whether hundreds of FBI agents cheated on a test on the bureau’s policies about conducting surveillance and probes without evidence of a crime being committed. Specifically, the test is on the Domestic Investigations and Operation Guide.

The news comes after ticklethewire.com first reported in November that three top officials at the Washington field office had allegedly been caught cheating on the test.

The top official, Joseph Persichini Jr., headed the field office, retired last Christmas before a final resolution could be reached in the internal probe. Two of his special agents in charge, Keith Bryars and Andrew Castor, were removed and sent to headquarters pending an appeal of the findings of an internal probe.

The allegations at the time were that the  three high-ranking officials may have received help on the  exam from an FBI lawyer, and may have some how worked together, a clear violation of agency rules.

Agents say the open-book test can take up to four hours, and is supposed to be taken on their own on a computer. They can look up answers, but are not allowed to work together or rely on answers provided by others. All agents take the test including FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

The Associated Press reported that in some cases agents worked together. The news agency also reported that the FBI Agents Association president Konrad Motyka wrote in his letter that in Columbia, S.C., agents printed the test in advance to use as a study guide.

“There are similar stories for practically every office, demonstrating the pervasive confusion and miscommunication that existed,” Motyka wrote.

FBI Director Mueller, testifying Wednesday morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was aware of the investigation, but was not certain how many agents may have violated the bureau guidelines while taking the test.

The AP reported that Motyka urged the inspector general to focus on the FBI’s “systemic failure” to administer the test without rules.

He urged that agents not be punished “because of a failure to effectively communicate the rules,” he wrote.

OTHER STORIES  OF INTEREST

Deaths of U.S. Law Enforcement Officers Could Reach 2-Decade High

fatalaties chartBy Glynnesha Taylor
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In 2009, the number of U.S. law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty reached a 50-year low. That downward trend is gone.

The National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund (NLEOMF)  in Washington is reporting a 43 percent increase of officers killed in the line of duty during the first six months of 2010 compared to last year. Five of those were federal law enforcement officers, including a Border Patrol agent.

If the trend continues, the organization said, 2010 may prove to be the most deadly in two decades.

Preliminary statistics show that 87 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty between January 1 and June 30, 2010 compared to 61 during the same stretch in 2009, a 42.6 percent, the law enforcement organization said.

Read more »

ACLU Wants FBI to Disclose Info It’s Gathering on Ethnic Groups in the Name of Terrorism

acluBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

ACLU offices around the country plan to file Freedom of Information Requests with the FBI to find out what type of information the agency is gathering on ethnic groups to battle terrorism, the Boston Globe reported.

The request comes in the wake of the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide issued in 2008 that allows agents to collect info on peoples’ behavior, lifestyles, religious practices, cultural traditions and even eating habits, the Globe reported.

The Globe reported that the guidelines say agents can “identify locations of concentrated ethnic communities” if the information will “reasonably aid the analysis of potential threats and vulnerabilities.”

The guidelines say the information might also be helpful because some communities “may be potential victims of civil rights crimes,” the Globe reported.

“FBI surveillance and mapping based on people’s religion, cultural practices, race, or ethnic backgrounds raise profound civil liberties concerns,” Carol Rose, executive director of the Massachusetts ACLU said, according to the Globe.

The paper said the FBI was not immediately available for comment.

For full story click here.

Judge Threatens to Hold Blago’s Attorney in Contempt

Sam Adam Jr./ law firm photo

Sam Adam Jr./ law firm photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Closing arguments in the public corruption trial of Ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich were supposed to finish up on Monday, but those plans were derailed when Blago’s attorney got into a big tiff with the judge, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The judge threatened to hold Blago’s attorney Sam Adam Jr in contempt if he said certain things during closing arguments. And Adam vowed to go to jail if necessary. The closing arguments were delayed.

Just another day in the Blago trial in downtown Chicago.

The tiff started just before Adam was to deliver his closing arguments. U.S. District Judge James Zagel told Adam — outside the presence of the jury — that he could not say that the prosecution mentioned 35 people in the case, including Tony Rezko, and never called them as witnesses.

“You cannot draw an evidentiary inference from the fact a witness was not called by the other side when you had an equal right to call them,” Zagel told Adam, according to the Sun-Times.

Adam argued with the judge, who said: “You will follow this order, because if you don’t you will be in contempt of court.”

“With all due deference to the court, I have a man here who’s arguing for his life. . . . I can’t effectively represent this man. . . . I can’t follow this order,” Adam told Zagel, according to the Sun-Times. “I’m willing to go to jail on this.”

After court, Sam Adam Jr. said he would go to jail “in a heartbeat” if that’s what it takes, the Sun-Times reported.

Arguments are scheduled to resume Tuesday.

To read more click here.

UPDATE: 12:55 PM Tuesday: Defense Attorney Sam Adam Jr. began delivering his closing argument without incident, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. To read more click here.

Violent Mexican Drug Cartels Spreading to Central America

Central-America-map-01By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The cancerous violence of the Mexican drug cartels seems to be spreading into Central America where the drug networks are burrowing in, the Washington Post reports.

And the presence of the cartels threatens to destabalize the countries that already face daunting crime figures, the Post reported.

The Mexican cartels “are spreading their horizons to states where they feel, quite frankly, more comfortable. These governments in Central America face a very real challenge in confronting these organizations,” David Gaddis, chief of operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration told the Post.

To read more click here.

Ex-FBI Agent Faces Peeping Tom and Public Drunkenness Charges

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former FBI agent, who faces Peeping Tom charges relating to an incident at a middle school in Hershey, Pa., is now also facing public drunkenness charges, the Patriot News reported.

The recent troubles of Ryan James Seese, 36, of Hershey, first started in May when he was arrested for allegedly standing on a toilet in the girl’s bathroom at Hershey Middle School and peering at a girl in the next stall while a concert was being held at the school, the newspaper reported.hershey pa

He was charged with criminal trespass, invasion of privacy and disorderly conduct, the paper reported.

Last Thursday, the Derry Township police charged him with public drunkenness around 3:30 a.m. on East Areba Avenue, the paper reported, adding that there were no other details available.

The paper, referring to court documents, wrote that Seese left the FBI in 2007 after getting caught in the women’s bathroom at the University of Arizona. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of public indecency, records show.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Va. Terror Suspect to Stay in Jail Pending Trial (Washington Post)
Arresting U.S. Fugitives is Win-Win For Mexican Police Squad (Los Angeles Times)
Blagojevich’s Life Size Elvis May Be Auctioned Off (AP)
Woman Sentenced to Prison For Faking Breast Cancer (AP)
Feds Push Fingerprint Dragnet for Illegal Immigrants (AP)
Republicans on Judiciary Demand Probe into Handling of  Black Panther Case (TPM)