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Archive for April 4th, 2011

Brenda Heck Named Head of Counterterrorism at FBI’s Washington Field Office

Brenda Heck/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Brenda L. Heck, deputy assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division at headquarters, has been named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Counterterrorism Division.

Prior to entering the FBI, she was a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service from 1985-88. In 1988,  Heck  joined the FBI and started in the New York division, where she spent 14 years working a variety of cases including fugitives, crimes against children, and civil rights. She was a member of the New York Field Office Scuba Team and was awarded the medal of merit.

In 2002, she was promoted to supervisory special agent in the Criminal Investigative Division, Violent Crimes/Major Offenders Section, at headquarters.

In October 2009, she received the Director’s Award for Excellence in intelligence analysis for her work on the Strategic Execution Team initiative, a two-year project to realign FBI intelligence functions, the FBI said.

9/11 Defendants to Be Tried in Military Court; Atty. Gen. Says He Still Believes Civilian Court Was Best Venue

Eric Holder Jr./ticklethewire.com file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Because Congress has blocked Gitmo detainees from being prosecuted in civilian court, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. said Monday that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others will stand trial in a military court in Gitmo.

The announcement marked a sharp reversal of his announcement in November 2009 that the men would be prosecuted in federal court in New York.

“Unfortunately, since I made that decision, Members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States, regardless of the venue,” he said in a statement. “As the President has said, those unwise and unwarranted restrictions undermine our counterterrorism efforts and could harm our national security.”

“After thoroughly studying the case, it became clear to me that the best venue for prosecution was in federal court. I stand by that decision today.

“As the indictment unsealed today reveals, we were prepared to bring a powerful case against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators – one of the most well-researched and documented cases I have ever seen in my decades of experience as a prosecutor.

“We had carefully evaluated the evidence and concluded that we could prove the defendants’ guilt while adhering to the bedrock traditions and values of our laws. We had consulted extensively with the intelligence community and developed detailed plans for handling classified evidence.

“Had this case proceeded in Manhattan or in an alternative venue in the United States, as I seriously explored in the past year, I am confident that our justice system would have performed with the same distinction that has been its hallmark for over two hundred years.

“Decisions about who, where and how to prosecute have always been – and must remain – the responsibility of the executive branch. Members of Congress simply do not have access to the evidence and other information necessary to make prosecution judgments. Yet they have taken one of the nation’s most tested counterterrorism tools off the table and tied our hands in a way that could have serious ramifications. We will continue to seek to repeal those restrictions.”

(Read more of his statement)

Read more »

Founder of Union Representing Guards Who Protect Fed Buildings Busted for Stealing More than $200,000

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON – The founder and treasurer of a union that represents private security guards assigned to protect federal buildings in the D.C. area, has been indicted on charges of stealing more than $100,000 from the pension fund and padding his salary to the tune of about $115,000 through unauthorized raises and bonuses and other expenses, the Justice Department said.

Caleb Gray Burris, 60, of Washington, the founder and treasurer of the National Association of Special Police and Security Officers (NASPSO) was charged Monday in  a superseding indictment with mail fraud, theft from a labor organization, obstruction of justice, criminal contempt and various recordkeeping offenses related to his operation of a pension plan for NASPSO members.

Authorities charged that from June 2004 through February 2011, Gray-Burriss wrote multiple checks to himself or to other third parties from the checking account from the union pension fund.  Authorities also alleged that he took more than $115,000 in “unauthorized salary increases and bonuses to himself, cash withdrawals from ATMs, reimbursement for unauthorized vacations and trips to casinos, personal dental work, and other goods and services.”

Obama Admin. To Prosecute 9/11’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in Military Trial

Khalid Sheik Mohammad

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In an about face — that appeared over time to be more and more likely of a possibility — the  Obama administration has decided to prosecute self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in a military commission at Guantanamo Bay instead of a civilian court in New York, CBS News reported.

The network reported that Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. will make the announcement Monday afternoon.

Holder originally announced in 2009 that Mohammed would be tried in U.S. District Court in New York. But conservatives on Capitol Hill opposed it and pushed for a military trial.

Eventually, the idea even lost the support of N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who cited numerous problems that a trial of that magnitude would pose to the Big Apple.

Mohammad’s most recognizable picture became the one where he was having an extremely bad hair day (to the right).

Blago Asks for FBI Interview Summaries of President Obama

Gov Blagojevich in happier days as gov/state photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Attorneys for ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich want prosecutors to turn over FBI interview summaries of President Obama.

In a motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the attorneys asked for the documents known as FBI 302 reports so they can use the information to cross examine a government witness.

“In support of said motion, defendant states the following: Prior to the first trial, the defense filed a Motion for the Trial Court to Issue a Subpoena to President Barack Obama,” the motion stated. “That motion was not granted and at this time, in preparation for re-trial, Blagojevich renews the portion of the motion seeking access to the FBI 302 interview summaries of President Barack Obama.

” The instant request is made because it is believed that the government will call Tom Balanoff as a witness at retrial. The Obama 302s are likely to contain information that is necessary to prepare for the cross-examination of Balanoff.”  (Balanoff is president of the Service Employees International Union Illinois Council).

“This is not a request to interview the President or to subpoena the President and it is not intended to burden the Office of the President.”

Blago, who faces a second trial on April 20, is charged with using his office as governor to personally profit and of selling President Obama’s vacant senate seat.

Blago was convicted in the first trial on only one of 24 counts– for lying to the FBI.

Read Blago Motion

LA Times Editorial: New Guildelines for Miranda Rights “Defensible”

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marshals photo

By The Los Angeles Times
Editorial Page

There was an uproar when it was revealed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called Christmas Day bomber, was read his Miranda rights. The hysterical reaction obscured a real dilemma for law enforcement: how to obtain what could be vital information about terrorist plots without denying suspects their legal rights. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and the FBI have produced guidelines that adroitly balance the two interests.

Issued Oct. 21 but made public only recently, the guidelines will not please those conservatives who insist that suspected terrorists shouldn’t be Mirandized at all. But they strike us as reasonable and, equally important, useful in heading off efforts in Congress to weaken Miranda.

The guidelines say that if applicable, “agents should ask any and all questions that are reasonably prompted by an immediate concern for the safety of the public or the arresting agents without advising the arrestee of his Miranda rights.” This advice is consistent with a 1984 Supreme Court decision making an exception from the Miranda requirement for questioning motivated by a concern for public safety.

Next, the guidelines say that after public safety concerns have been resolved, agents should promptly Mirandize a suspect. But there are exceptions: situations in which, “although all relevant public safety questions have been asked, agents nonetheless conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat, and that the government’s interest in obtaining this intelligence outweighs the disadvantages of proceeding with unwarned interrogation.” This provision pushes the public safety exception to its limit, but it’s defensible.

To read more click here.

Head of FBI’s Roanoke Office to Work For Va. Tech


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Kevin Foust, head of the Roanoke, Va. FBI office, is a little nervous.

After a quarter century with the FBI, Foust, 50, is leaving to become deputy chief of Virginia Tech’s police department, according to the Roanoke Times.

His $80,000 a year job will be to assess security for the university across Virginia and overseas, the paper reported. The university faced tragedy four years ago when a gunman opened fire, killing  32 and wounded many others.

“I’m very nervous about going down there because it’s something I’ve never done before,” Foust told the Roanoke Times.  “I pray that they’re patient.”

Justice Dept.’s Public Integrity Section Could Be Screwing Up Another Public Corruption Case in Ala.


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section which blew the case against Sen. Ted Stevens, may be screwing up a big public corruption case in Montgomery, Ala. Both cases involve allegations of withholding evidence from the defense.

The Associated Press reports that an angry U.S. Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel Jr. is fed up and said at a pretrial hearing on Friday that he may impose sanctions against the government for repeatedly failing to hand over all  the documents pertaining to FBI wiretaps in a gambling case involving alleged payoffs to politicians to pass legislation.

“This is supposed to be some elite group coming down from D.C., and how this case has been conducted is ridiculous,” the judge said at a pretrial hearing, according to AP. The trial is set for June 6.

The judge did not say what sanctions he might impose, but the defense is asking that the judge toss the case because the  government failed to share certain documents.

AP reported that Casino owners Milton McGregor and Ronnie Gilley, four present and former legislators, and four others are charged with buying and selling votes on legislation. The votes would have kept opened Gilley’s and McGregor’s shuttered electronic bingo casinos.

Prosecutor Steve Feaga said in court, according to AP: “In the course of this case, there have been some mistakes made by the government.”

But AP reported that Feaga said the mistakes were unintentional, such as handing over computer disc without the passwords to access data.

The government has conceded that it has made mistakes, but they weren’t intentional, AP said.

The Public Integrity Section convicted then-U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in Oct. 27, 2008 of public corruption charges shortly before his re-election. Stevens lost the election, but the Justice Department subsequently  moved to vacate conviction because its Office of Public Integrity failed to turn over evidence to the defense.