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Archive for March 2nd, 2011

Trial Set for March 16 for Man Who Made Terrorist Threats on Facebook

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Trial begins later this month for a Virginia man who wrote on Facebook that he planned to blow up the D.C. area subway system, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

The paper’s Bruce Alpert reports that the trial against Awais Younis,25, will only deal with the threats he made against the Louisiana woman who turned him, and not the actual threats he posted on Facebook. The trial is set for March 16 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.

Alpert wrote that “the decision not to charge Younis with terrorist-related charges might indicate that either the Justice Department didn’t find evidence he was serious about his threats against the Washington subway and sewer system, or that he was incapable of carrying them out.”

The paper reported that authorities charged that an informant contacted the New Orleans FBI on Nov. 28 and said during a chat on Facebook that Younis discussed building pipe bombs and detonating them on the subway cars.

Once the FBI began looking into the matter, the defendant made threats against the informant and her father during a Facebook chat, the paper reported.

“Bitch, I know what you are up too and you better stop if you know what is good for you!!!!…that is the problem with americans they cant leave well enough alone until something happends then they sit there wondering why we dropped the twin towers like a bad habit hahaha,” was his message, according to the paper.

Ex-Justice Dept. Analyst Judith Socolov Who was Convicted of Espionage Dies at Age 88

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Judith Socolov, a former Justice Department political analyst in the 1940s, who fell in love with a Soviet agent and was convicted of espionage, died over the weekend in Manhattan, the New York Times reported. She was 88.

Judith Coplon, who later became Judith Socolov, was arrested by the FBI in 1949 while working at the Justice Department, the Times reported.

The Times reported that her convictions, one in 1949 for espionage and another for conspiracy in 1950, were both overturned. The Times reported one conviction was overturned “because federal agents overheard conversations with her lawyer, and in the other because she was arrested on probable cause but without a warrant.”

Still, the U.S. Court of Appeals concluded that ”her guilt is plain,” the Times reported. The paper wrote that Soviet documents released years later supported that conclusion.

”She was a very high priority to the F.B.I.,” John Earl Haynes, a cold war historian at the Library of Congress, told the Times on Monday, ”because she was clearly in a Justice Department office, the Foreign Agents Registration Section, that was receiving the F.B.I.’s own counterespionage reports.”

She went on to marry one of her attorneys Albert Socolov and raised four children, earned a master’s degree, published books and did other things, and ran two Mexican restaurants in New York with her husband.

To read more click here.

Fla. FBI Agent and Cops on Trial for Mortgage Fraud

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Trial began Tuesday in Ft. Lauderdale federal court for an FBI agent along with four local Florida cops and a former officer, who face charges of mortgage fraud involving the purchase of properties in Broward and Palm Beach counties, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel reported.

The paper reported that the six are accused of lying to lenders about things like income or whether the homes would be primary residences.

The paper reported that the defendants attorneys claim their clients were victims, and they had no idea the two mortgage brokers working with them submitted false information and forged signatures on hundreds of lending documents so they could make more money off the deals.

The paper reported that the mortgage brokers have cut deals with the feds and intend to testify in court.

The FBI agent, Robert DePriest, has been removed from all investigative duties with the FBI, the paper reported.

TSA Worker Busted For Allegedly Helping Drug Dealers


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Minnetta Walker of the Transportation Security Administration lost her moral compass — or perhaps she never had one, authorities allege.

The TSA behavioral detection officer at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, who is supposed to walk around and look for suspicious behavior, was arrested Tuesday and charged with providing info to drug traffickers and helping them get past checkpoints with minimum scrutiny, the Buffalo News reported.

The Buffalo News reported that the 43-year-old was arrested off-duty when she drove to the airport to pick up a suspected drug dealer returning from Arizona.

The paper reported that federal charging documents allege that Walker tipped off one drug dealer that drug agents were tailing him and escorted dealers through screening checkpoints, the Buffalo paper reported.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex-FBI Agent Jody Weis Steps Down as Chicago’s Top Cop

Is Chicago Fed Judge Going too Far to Protect Jurors?

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Imagine taxpayers spending millions of dollars collectively trying an Illinois governor, and in the end, the case all but collapses. The jurors only convict on one of 24 counts . They end up deadlocked on the rest.

Imagine that. Yes,it’s not too hard, considering it happened in the first trial of ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Isn’t it fair to assume people want to know why the case collapsed? Can we go as far as to say they have a right to know? I’d say Yes.

So I speak with some mixed feelings when I read that the U.S. District Judge James Zagel in Chicago on Tuesday ruled that he won’t release the names of the jurors until 9 a.m., the day after the verdict in the retrial of Blagojevich, which begins April 20.

The judge wants to  protect the jurors. Fair.

Zagel raises some good points: He says the press after the first trial hounded the jurors to find out what they were thinking. They knocked on doors. A TV helicopter reportedly flew up above a home where one jury was staying, the Associated Press reported. The judge has said the press was  obnoxious, that reporters went too far.

I’m for some balance. Jurors have rights.  But so does the public — the right to know. At minimum, the judge — and in other high profile cases as well — should strongly suggest — and not just throw it out as an option — that at least one of the jurors should brief the press after the verdict. Judges have a way of being persuasive, particularly after they bond with jurors during a trial. They can make it happen. And maybe that way, reporters wouldn’t have to knock on doors.

We have a right to know: What the prosecution, what the defense  did right, what they did wrong. Was it taxpayers’ money well spent? Did justice — regardless of the verdict — prevail?

There should be dignity in these proceedings. No question. But citizens — the lion’s share who don’t have time to attend these trials  — have the right to know what’s going on in the courts.

And while I’m at it, frankly, it’s time to bring television cameras into federal court to let citizens — some who have never stepped foot in a federal court — see what’s going on.  Worse yet, some federal courts, like in  Alexandria, Va., do everything to make it difficult for the press to do its job. The court there doesn’t allow reporters to carry cell phones (this is the 21st Century) and laptops (granted they shouldn’t be used in the courtrooms).

I have to commend federal courthouses like the one in Washington, which try to accommodate the press. Reporters can carry cell phones and bring a laptop into the courthouse.  And during some trials, like the one in D.C. involving Sen. Ted Stevens, the court set up an overflow room with TV monitors where reporters used laptops to report to the public what was going on. Other courthouses should follow suit.

Federal court is a dignified place.  But let’s strike a balance. Let’s not lose sight of the fact the people have a right to know what’s going on!

Private U.S. Spies Aid FBI in Afghan Probe

By Mark Mazzetti
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Not long after the Pentagon severed its relationship with a private spy network operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the F.B.I. quietly began tapping the same group to help investigate the killing of 10 medical aid workers in northern Afghanistan, according to American officials and private contractors.

The spy network, managed by Duane R. Clarridge, 78, a former top official at the Central Intelligence Agency, has provided agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Kabul with intelligence reports about militants who may have been involved in the attack, which killed six Americans last August.

How the F.B.I uses the information, and whether it has been valuable, is unclear. But that the F.B.I would use Mr. Clarridge’s group — at the same time the Pentagon is investigating whether it and other private spies were hired in Afghanistan and Pakistan in violation of Defense Department policy — shows the limits of the American government’s own information sources in the chaos of a war zone.

To read more click here.