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Archive for September 27th, 2010

Debra Evans Smith to Head Administrative Division at FBI’s D.C. Field Office

Debra Evans Smith/fbi photo
Debra Evans Smith/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Debra Evans Smith, who worked on the high-profile  spy case involving FBI agent Robert Hanssen, was  named special agent in charge of the Administrative Division at FBI’s Washington Field Office, the agency announced Monday.

Smith most recently served as a special assistant to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III.

Smith started her career with the FBI in May 1984 as a professional staff employee and in 1987 completed new agents’ training and was assigned to the New Orleans Field Office, where she worked different cases in such areas as civil rights and white-collar crime.

In 1989, she attended the Foreign Service Institute in Rosslyn, Va. and studied Russia. She later went to the Los Angeles FBI office to worked Russian Foreign counterintelligence and Russian organized crime.

In 1996, she went to the Washington Field Office, where she worked Russian foreign counterintelligence investigations.

Read more »

Fed Prosecutor in Ted Stevens Case Commits Suicide

justice dept. logoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — One of the federal prosecutors in the botched Sen. Ted Stevens public corruption case  in Washington committed suicide over the weekend, NPR reported.

Carrie Johnson of NPR reported that that prosecutor Nick Marsh took his own life.

Marsh was one of the prosecutors in the Stevens case that imploded after prosecutors won a conviction. The Attorney General’s Office dismissed the case because of concerns about prosecutorial misconduct.  The prosecution failed to turn over certain evidence.

Subsequently, the judge in the case appointed a special prosecutor to determine whether the government broke the law and the Justice Department’s Professional Responsibility launched its own probe, NPR reported.

NPR reported that the special prosecutor’s report is expected in a few weeks, but Marsh’s lawyer, Bob Luskin, said he didn’t think that Marsh was going to be charged.

Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division released this statement:

“Our deepest sympathies go out to Nick’s family and friends on this sad day. The Department of Justice is a community, and today our community is mourning the loss of this dedicated young attorney.”

The FBI Cheating Scandal Probe Began at the Washington Field Office With an “Anonymous Complaint”

FBI's Joseph Persichin Jr./ticklethewire.com photo

FBI's Joseph Persichin Jr./ticklethewire.com photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A probe into the nationwide FBI test cheating scandal cited in an Inspector General report released Monday began at the Washington field office, just blocks from the Capitol.

The report, which cited widespread cheating on an open book exam nationwide, said the FBI Inspection Division in September 2009 received an anonymous complaint that three top managers at the Washington Field Office (WFO) cheated on the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG), which provides guidelines on surveilling Americans. The bureau allowed agents to refer to reference materials for the open book exam, but not to take it together or get the answers beforehand.

Keith Bryars/fbi photo

Keith Bryars/fbi photo

The report, while not naming names, said two special agents in charge at the Washington Field Office — Keith Bryars and Andrew Castor — had taken the open book exam together “while discussing the questions and possible answers with a legal advisor, who was present.”

It went on to say that the Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) , Joseph Persichini Jr. was in the room, but did not take the test at the time.

“Instead, the ADIC wrote the answers and later used them to complete the exam another day.” Ticklethwire.com was the first to report on the scandal last November. Castor, Bryars and Persichini have all consistently declined to comment on the matter in the past.

The Inspector General report said one of the special agents in charge “argued, among other things, that he did not cheat because although he had asked the legal advisor to reference the sections in the DIOG for us to use to answer the question” he never asked the legal advisor ‘what the answer was to a particular question.'”

Andrew Castor/fbi photo

Andrew Castor/fbi photo

But the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) wasn’t buying it, the report said, and concluded that he “violated basic test-taking protocols and constituted cheating.”

The OPR probe found that both SACs violated the FBI policy about making false or misleading statements by certifying in question 51 on the exam that they had not consulted with anyone on the test.  OPR issued a 20 day suspension without pay for both,  and a demotion to a non-supervisory pay grade of GS-13. But the punishment was stayed while they appeal.

Interesting, in the meantime,  both have landed “acting” deputy assistant director jobs — one at headquarters and one at Quantico, Va. Some in the rank and file at the bureau have perceived it as a promotion — a move they think sends the wrong message.

Read more »

Number of FBI Agents Cheated on Test, IG Report Says

test2By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — As expected, the Justice Department’s Inspector General report released Monday found that a number of FBI agents cheated on a test on bureau policies for conducting surveillance on Americans.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine says he found “significant abuses and cheating” and that people worked together or got answers to the open book exam in violation of FBI policy.

The report said more than 200 finished the test in 20 minutes or less and many of them received high scores. It said FBI officials who developed the test said it takes at least 90 minutes. Agents have told ticklethewire.com that the test actually can easily take three to four hours.

“The FBI should take appropriate disciplinary action against those employees identified by the OIG who cheated or engaged in inappropriate conduct related to the …. exam,” the report said.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III issued a statement in response, saying:

“An uncompromising commitment to integrity remains the backbone of the FBI workforce. It guides us in every aspect of carrying out our mission to protect the American public. When allegations of misconduct relating to the DIOG testing first came to our attention, we moved quickly to investigate, bringing in the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

“In cases where misconduct has been determined, personnel actions were taken, and that process continues. We will follow-up in each of the 22 cases the IG has found for disciplinary action, as appropriate, as well as any other allegations of misconduct.

“The vast majority of FBI employees successfully completed the DIOG training and the open-book examination that followed, in accordance with the test-taking instructions. While the Office of Inspector General has identified a number of factors that contributed to problems with the test-taking, nothing excuses the conduct of those who chose not to comply when instructions were clear.”

Read report

Opinions Mixed on Test Cheating Scandal (Aug. 2010)

NY Times Editorial: A Reminder to the FBI

spy graphicBy The New York Times
Editorial Page

The day after Thanksgiving, 2002, was a slow day in the Pittsburgh office of the F.B.I., so a supervisor sent a special agent to a rally against the threatened war in Iraq to look for any terrorism suspects who might be there, just to ”see what they are doing.”

The peace rally was sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center, which has opposed violence and armed conflict since the days of Vietnam, and consisted largely of people distributing leaflets.

There was not the slightest indication that there were any terrorists there or even the hint of a connection to terrorism. Nonetheless, the agent kept the leafleteers under surveillance and even took pictures.

It sounds like the paranoid approach to dissent of J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I., but this and other abuses took place during the Bush administration. A report on the subject by the Justice Department’s inspector general is a reminder of how easily civil liberties can be cast aside during suspicious frenzies, such as that unleashed after the 9/11 terror attacks.

To read more click here.

Obama Administration Wants to Keep Better Tabs on Internet and Bank Transfers

internet-photoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is making moves to try and get a better handle on the activities of terrorists.

Charlie Savage of the The New York Times reports that federal law enforcement and national security officials plan next year to seek new regulations from Congress that would allow agencies to get information on the Internet with a wiretap order.

The Times reports that agencies fear “their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is ‘going dark’ as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.”

The Times reports that the administration would ask Congress to change laws so that they could get info from encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry and social networks like Facebook and Skype.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima reports that the Obama administration wants to require all U.S. banks to report all electronic money orders in and out of the country to keep better tabs on terrorist financing and money laundering.

Currently, banks are required to report transactions that exceed $10,000. The new regulations would require all transfers to be reported regardless of size, the Post reports.

To read full NY Times story click here.

To read full Washington Post story click here.

FBI’s Troubled Computer Project to Go In House

fbi logo largeBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –– The FBI is making a new move to try and bring its troubled computer project called the “Sentinel” under control, according to the Washington Post’s Capital Business report. The program has been plagued by endless glitches.

The paper reports that the FBI has decided to bring the project in house, with its IT division taking over from contractor, Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin. The system has been designed to replace the FBI’s paper-based system for criminal investigation records.

The paper reports that the project is expected to go quicker and come within the $451 million budget. Lockheed Martin will be retained as a subject matter expert, the paper reported.

To read more click here.

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