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Archive for March 25th, 2011

FBI Agent Gets 2 Years for Threatening Head of Dallas FBI

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s off to prison for ex-FBI agent Carlos Ortiz Jr. who threatened to harm his estranged wife — an FBI analyst — and the head of the Dallas FBI.

Chief U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater in Dallas on Friday sentenced Carlos, 49, to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty in December to a charge of retaliating against a federal official, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He had been locked up since his arrest in August.

Robert Casey Jr. , head of the Dallas FBI, suspended Ortiz without pay in May after Ortiz’s wife accused him of domestic violence. They have a elementary school aged son.

Authorities alleged that in August Ortiz spoke to a friend by phone, who is a licensed firearms dealer, and said he was looking for a .50 caliber rifle, which are used by military snipers.

He also made threats against Casey and his wife and accused them of having an affair, something FBI officials denied. A friend notified the FBI. Casey fired Ortiz on Aug. 25.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, during a phone conversation with a friend, Ortiz said of the Casey, head of the Dallas FBI: “I’m definitely gonna [expletive] on his grave, I might just put a .308 down his [expletive] (unintelligible).”

During the call, Ortiz expressed anger at losing his job with the FBI, saying “and what do I have for 26 years, one more year away from retirement? [expletive]. And an OPR.”

In August, on the day of his arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said agents executed a federal search warrant at Ortiz’s home and car and found a “signed sworn statement” by Ortiz that said about his boss:

“Mr. Casey has broken me as a man and human being, with his constant threats and follow through terminating me leaving with no way to sustain my son. Mr. Casey never listed (sic) to me and has left me no options.”

“Finally that if Mr. Casey was not allowed to have so much power unchecked this would have never happened.”

Authorities said the statement was in an envelope with the notation: “DAD TAKE TO THE PRESS.”

Obama Pleads Ignorance: Says He Never Knew About Controversial ATF Gun Program

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — President Obama is pleading ignorance about a controversial ATF operation that let gun traffickers pass on the goods so agents could track them to the higher levels of the Mexican cartels.

The President, in an interview with Univision that he and Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. ever authorized the program, and he was never informed about it, according to the San Antonio Express News.

Weapons from the program have been linked to the death in Mexico in February of Jamie Zapata and of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December. The Mexican government complained that it was never notified about the program.

To read more click here.

Judge Tosses Ex-Fed Prosecutor’s Case Against Justice Dept.

Ex-Prosecutor Richard Convertino

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department won a legal battle against one of its own.

A D.C. federal judge on Thursday dismissed a whistleblower lawsuit by ex-Detroit federal prosecutor Richard Convertino against the Justice Department. The lawsuit alleged that the Justice leaked damaging information about an internal Justice probe into Convertino.

U.S. District Judge Royce C.  Lamberth ruled that  Convertino, after seven years, had failed to show that a Justice Department employee had leaked to  Detroit Free Press  reporter David Ashenfelter information about a Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility Probe into Covertino’s actions during a high-profile terrorism case.  Ashenfelter published a story about the probe.

The ruling was first reported in the Detroit News.

“Despite seven years of dedicated effort, Convertino is no closer to identifying the source(s) of the leak today than he was when this litigation commenced,” the judge wrote in a ruling.

“In sum, Convertino has made a monumental effort to identify Ashenfelter’s source(s) and has had absolutely no success. Moreover, OIG (Office of Inspector General) conducted its own extensive investigation into the identity of the source(s) and was equally unsuccessful. After seven years of litigation, then, Convertino cannot answer the question that lies at the heart of [his] case.”

David Ashenfelter

“Without knowledge of the leaker’s identity, Convertino cannot establish that DOJ acted willfully or intentionally,” the ruling said.

Convertino convicted three people who were suspected of being part of a terrorist sleeper cell in Detroit. They were arrested right after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and the case became national news.

In fact, then-Attorney Gen.  John Ashcroft mistakenly said initially that the men had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.  He later corrected the misstatement.

But the convictions were overturned and he was criminally charged with misconduct in the case.  He was eventually acquitted. The entire case created serious tensions in the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s Office.

During the course of his whistleblower lawsuit, Convertino deposed Ashenfelter, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter, but failed to get him to disclose his source.

Convertino continually insisted during the lawsuit that a particular assistant U.S. Attorney had leaked the info to the Free Press. But an internal Justice Department probe failed to confirm that.

Herschel Fink, attorney for the Free Press, told Free Press reporter Joe Swickard that the decision was “a very good development for journalism … and the ability for a journalist to protect his sources.”

The Free Press said Convertino, who is in private practice, did not return calls for comment.

Read Opinion

Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar Hoover Movie to Film in D.C. This Weekend

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Signs of Clint Eastwood’s upcoming film on J. Edgar Hoover should be popping up in Washington this weekend.

The Washington Post’s Reliable Source column reports that the film will shoot scenes on Saturday and Sunday involving Leonardo DiCaprio, who will play the big guy, J. Edgar Hoover.

That’s all according to the D.C. Film Office.

Scientists in Anthrax Case Still Have Doubts and Questions

One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Like the JFK assassination, the mystery and the persistent questions about anthrax killings in 2001, won’t go away.

The latest is a detailed article in the magazine WIRED, by Noah Shactman, who writes that scientists involved in helping the FBI crack the deadly mystery still have lingering doubts and questions about the probe that concluded that civilian government scientist Bruce Ivins mailed the letters that killed five people and sickened 17 others.  Ivins committed suicide in July 2008 before prosecutors could file charges.

Schactman writes that Clair Fraser-Liggett, a  genetic specialist in Maryland who led the team that sequenced the DNA of the anthrax in the letters,  has reservations.  “There are still some holes,” she told the author.

In Flagstaff, Arizona, scientist Paul Keim, who first identified the anthrax strain in the case, told WIRED: “I don’t know if Ivins sent the letters.” The author also spoke to FBI agent Edward Montooth, who headed up the investigation, who said he’s convinced Ivins mailed the letters but he’s uncertain about the motivation and when he concocted the deadly anthrax.

“We still have a difficult time nailing down the time frame,” he says. “We don’t know when he made or dried the spores.”

The WIRED article was posted on the website on Thursday, just days after the FBI got some welcoming news from a report by the Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel, which concluded Ivins’  psychiatric records “does support the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s)determination that he was responsible.”  A federal judge had ordered the panel to review the case and Ivins.

The FBI and Justice Department have faced a wave of skepticism from politicians on Capitol Hill, Ivins’ attorney and Ivins fellow scientists at Ft. Detrick in Maryland, who question whether Ivins was actually the culprit.

Their skepticism was bolstered in February by  a 170-page report by the National Research Council, which  found that the Justice Department overstated its case when it definitively concluded that the anthrax used in the deadly mailings came from a flask from Ivins’ laboratory at Fort Detrick labeled RMR-1029. The report, which was commissioned by the FBI,  said it did not rule out other possible sources.

“The scientific link between the letter material and flask number RMR-1029 is not as conclusive as stated in the DOJ Investigative Summary,” the report said.

However, Lehigh University President Alice P. Gast, who led the 16-member National Research Council Committee that reviewed the cutting-edge science used in the investigation, said: “We find the scientific evidence to be consistent with their conclusions but not as definitive as stated.

To read the full WIRED story click here.

More Than 100 Ex-FBI Agents Try to Spring Convicted Ex-Boston Agent John Connolly

John Connolly

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Imprisoned ex-Boston FBI agent John Connolly, who was convicted of helping some mobsters murder a South Florida gambling exec, is getting some support from some former colleagues.

The Associated Press reports that more than  100 ex- FBI agents, including the one whose undercover work inspired the movie “Donnie Brasco,” have filed two petitions with Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. “demanding appointment of a special counsel to investigate the 70-year-old Connolly’s prosecution, raising a grab-bag of claims spanning many years, some of which have been previously rejected by courts and aired in congressional hearings. They include allegations of questionable tactics by prosecutors, evidence that a key witness lied during Connolly’s 2002 federal corruption trial and contentions there was a rigged result in his 2008 Florida murder case.”

Boston Mobster Whitey Bulger remains on the list

“I’ve never seen them go after a gangster like they have John,”  former agent Joseph Pistone of “Donnie Brasco” fame told the AP. “He was dedicated as an FBI agent. He got all kinds of commendations. All of a sudden he goes wrong? That’s kind of hard to believe.”

Authorities alleged that Connolly let Boston mobsters like “Whitey” Bulger, who was an informant, run amuck and commit crimes while he accepted tens of thousands of dollars and other favors from them. Connolly was also accused of passing them sensitive info.

In Miami, Connolly  was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1982 hit of John Callahan, who had mob ties and was president of World Jai-Alai, AP reported. Authorities charged Connolly told mobsters Bulger and Stephen Flemmi that Callahan was going to rat on them, which resulted in the mob hit. Connolly is finishing up a 10-year federal prison term for racketeering and obstruction of justice,  and will soon begin serving a 40-year term for the Florida murder.

AP reported that the Justice Department has declined to  act on the ex-agents’ request, citing Connolly’s ongoing appeals of his Florida murder conviction.

“I feel John was wrongfully convicted,” ex-FBI agent William Reagan told AP. “I don’t think it amounted to a malicious prosecution. I simply think he was screwed over.”

Prosecutors disagree.

“Connolly had his trial. He got convicted. They attacked it with new evidence, and they lost that one, too,”  Michael Von Zamft, an assistant state attorney in Miami, told AP. “The concept that he is this innocent guy is just ridiculous.”

Entering Fingerprints in ICE Database Could Have Prevented Rape of 8-Year-Old Girl

ice photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It may have been a minor oversight the time — but the misstep could have prevented the rape of an 8-year-old girl.

Tom Jackman of the Washington Post reports that immigration authorities failed to enter in a national data base the fingerprints of Salvador Portillo-Saravia before they deported him to  El Salvador in 2003.  So seven years later, because his fingerprints were not in a data base, Portillo-Saravia, who had sneaked back into the U.S., was released from the Loudoun County Jail in Virginia. A month later, Jackman reports, Fairfax County police say he raped an 8-year-old girl.

In a letter to  Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) , Elliot Williams, Immigration and Customs Enforcement  assistant director for congressional relations, wrote that “the agency policy to enroll the fingerprints in IDENT was not followed, thereby reducing ICE’s ability to thwart this terrible and tragic event.” according to the Post. The paper wrote that ” ICE officials could not say why the prints weren’t entered in 2003.”

The paper reported Portillo-Saravia was captured last month in Houston and is now facing the rape charges.

To read more click here.

Column: Fed Prosecutors Wasting Time Making a Criminal of Barry Bonds

By Sally Jenkins
Washington Post Columnist

Barry Bonds is a lot of things, leading off with obnoxious, but he doesn’t meet my definition of a criminal.

There is a growing school of legal thought that says we have a dangerous tendency to “overcriminalize,” using criminal law to try to solve every single social problem in America. Some things are mistakes and not crimes. And some people are jerks, but not jail-worthy.

Just because Bonds used steroids, and might be unethical or morally blameworthy, doesn’t mean he deserves to be hounded by prosecutors for almost a decade. Criminal law should be reserved for our very worst offenders, and to use it on anyone else doesn’t actually strengthen respect for the law, but weakens it.

To read full column click here.