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Archive for October 18th, 2012

Were FBI Agent’s Texts Intentionally Destroyed in Gun Trafficking Sting in Philippines?

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The question is: Were the text messages sent by an undercover FBI agent to defendants in an 18-month gun trafficking sting in the Philippines destroyed by the government or was there merely a technical glitch that prevented them from being saved?

Deputy Federal Defender John Littrell suggests in a court document filed Monday in Los Angeles federal court that the government may have destroyed the text messages. The government, according to Littrell’s motion, claims it was a glitch: that the phone the agent used only retained incoming texts from the defendants, but not the outgoing ones by the agent.

Littrell says he needs the FBI agent’s texts to help prove that his client, Sergio Santiago Syjuco of Philippines and two co-defendants, were entrapped by the agent who he says used humiliaton and threats to get them to help traffick guns to the U.S. The trial is pending.

The case has already stirred some controversy. Littrell in filings weeks earlier alleged that the undercover agent used taxpayer dollars to pay for hookers in the Philippines for himself and the three co-defendants, and that some of the prostitutes where they went were underage. The agent responded in court documents, calling the allegations about the hookers pure nonsense.

On this latest allegations, Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles said Wednesday night: “The government will respond to the allegations in court.”

In the motion, the defense attorney  writes that the government produced as part of the exculpatory evidence, 419 pages of photographs of incoming text messages sent from the defendants to the undercover agent. However, he noted that the government failed to produce any text messages from the agent to the defendant, evidence he says  could prove the men were entrapped.

Littrell writes in the court filing:

“The government’s bad faith in destroying the evidence should be inferred based on the lack of any persuasive explanation as to why all incoming text messages were preserved by the government, and none of the outgoing messages.”

“”Because the defense of entrapment will be presented to the jury, the precise contents of the statements of both the defendants and the undercover agent and the context in which those statements were made, will be critical at trial. ”

“On September 11, 2012, co-counsel George Buehler inquired of Assistant United States Attorney Margaret Vierbuchen why she had produced only photographs of incoming text messages from the undercover agent’s phone, and not the outgoing messages.  Ms. Vierbuchen responded by stating that the cellular telephone used by the agent preserved only incoming messages and not outgoing

“Defense counsel has discussed the government’s claim with an expert, and the expert has indicated that this is unlikely. The government has offered no other explanation as to why none of the outgoing text messages sent by the undercover agent during his 18 month investigation have been preserved.”

Usually text message on phones show a string of incoming and outgoing text messages.

Littrell also wrote that even if the government was correct in that there was a glitch,  it should have realized it and “replaced the agent’s phone with one that does record outgoing text messages in order to preserve what was obviously important evidence. Moreover, because the government preserved the incoming text messages by taking photographs of them as they appeared on the screen of the agent’s phone, why would the government fail to similarly take photographs of the outgoing text messages as they appeared?”

Littrell could not be immediately reached for comment.

Read Defense Attorney’s Motion

Calls for Investigation into Border Patrol Shooting Increase After Latest Death

 Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

 The latest fatal shooting by the U.S. Border Patrol has raised questions about the agency’s use of force over the past two years, the Arizona Republic reports.

The ACLU and other human-rights advocates are questioning the frequency of the shootings, which have left 18 people dead since January 2010, according to the Arizona Republic.

On Oct. 10, Border Patrol caught criticism from numerous sources for shooting 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez 8 times to defend against rock-throwers at a Mexican border in Arizona.

The shooting has prompted the ACLU and some Congressional members to step up pressure for a comprehensive investigation of Border Patrol.

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

Canadian Border Guard Recovers After Being Shot in Neck by Seattle Tattoo Artist

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

An unarmed Canadian border guard shot in the neck while monitoring the crossing north of Seattle is expected to fully recover, the Associated Press reports.

In the meantime, investigators are trying to determine why Andrew Michael Crews, a 32-year-old tattoo artist from Seattle, shot the guard and then committed suicide by turning the gun on himself, the AP reported.

His stepfather told the AP that Crews texted his mom that he loved her and was sorry a few hours before the shooting.

Investigators are baffled.

“The current evidence clearly indicates that prior to taking his own life, Mr. Crews deliberately fired at the victim,” said Superintendent Kevin Hackett of the British Columbia homicide investigative team handling the probe. “There is no evidence, however, to suggest the victim was specifically targeted.”

Violence Crime Surged Last Year Following Two Decades of Declines

 Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A nearly 20-year decline in violence has come to an end, according to a federal survey on crimes, the USA Today reports.

The violent crime rate rose 17% last year, while the rate of property crimes increased 11%, according to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey.

Whether the rise was anomalous or part of a disturbing new trend remains unclear, criminal justice analysts told the USA Today.

“I wouldn’t make much out of it,” said University of Maryland criminologist Charles Wellford. “One year does not make a trend, and these institutional measures (the Justice survey and the FBI crime report) are best at measuring trends.”

FBI Arrests Bangladeshi Man Accused of Trying to Blow Up the New York Federal Reserve Bank

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

 A Bangladeshi man is accused of assembling what he thought was a 1,000 pound bomb and trying to detonate it to blow up the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Reuters reports.

The FBI said Wednesday that Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis drove the devise to the bank and walked back to his hotel, where he recorded a video statement, saying, “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.”

Authorities arrested Nafis as he repeatedly tried to detonate the bomb, which the FBI assured was never in working condition, Reuters reported.

‘Attempting to destroy a landmark building and kill or maim untold numbers of innocent bystanders is about as serious as the imagination can conjure,” said Mary Galligan, FBI acting assistant director-in-charge. “The defendant faces appropriately severe consequences.”

The FBI employed a tactic it has used in the past: Befriend a would-be terrorist and provide him with fake equipment to see if he will go through with an attack, according to Reuters.

The FBI said Nafis traveled to the U.S. in January 2012 and claimed to have been in contact with al Qaeda, a claim that agents could not substantiate.

Nafis considered several targets, including President Obama, before deciding on the bank building, which is one of the most secure and guarded in the country, authorities said.

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