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Archive for October, 2016

FBI Director James Comey Becomes a Prisoner of His Boy Scout Image

Scott #1145

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The other day, a commentator on MSNBC described FBI Director James Comey as having a Boy Scout image. That’s a good thing for an FBI director.

The problem is that Comey appears to have become a prisoner of that image, and has placed more importance on  his image and the FBI’s image than the American people, the Justice Department and the presidential election, which is the World Series of democracy in this country.

Simply put, Comey, appeared to be so worried about his image, that he screwed up by firing off a letter notifying Congress  about emails his agents stumbled upon while investigating Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Huma Abedin. He says he was obligated to update Congressional members.  Plenty disagree with that assumption, at least under the circumstances.

The problem is, at this point, days before the election, Comey has no clue as to what the emails say or what significance they have. It would be different if he knew.  But agents have yet to start reviewing them.

Sure,  Comey should be obsessed about doing the right thing. But doing the right thing isn’t always best for his, nor the FBI’s image. Sometimes you have to take a hit, knowing you’re doing the right thing. In this case, he did  what he thought was the right thing for his and the FBI’s image above all else. It was wrong.

Before Friday, Comey’s image was already under attack by some current and former FBI agents, conservatives on Capitol Hill and the Donald Trump camp — all of whom felt the FBI gave Hillary Clinton and company special treatment during the email probe, and that Clinton should have been indicted.

Comey and his underlings in the bureau have been catching hell for that.

Now, this.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that Justice officials reminded the FBI of the department’s position “that we don’t comment on an ongoing investigation. And we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election,” said one Justice Department official.

“Director Comey understood our position. He heard it from Justice leadership,” the official said. “It was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill. He is operating independently of the Justice Department. And he knows it.”

I’m sure Comey thought he was doing the right thing, though I wonder if he wasn’t also hoping to make amends with all those who faulted him for not recommending charges against Clinton.

Comey is no stranger to the politics of Washington and the sensitivity of elections.

In March 2004, during the President George W. Bush administration, Comey was deputy Attorney General when he rushed to the intensive care unit where Attorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized. Comey had learned that White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., were on the way to visit Ashcroft and get him to reauthorize Bush’s domestic surveillance program, which the Justice Department had just determined was illegal.

Comey went there and prevented that from happening. Back then, even though it was such an egregious attempt to violate the law, Comey knew better then to come out publicly that year and expose the Bush administration’s highly questionable intentions months before the November election in which Bush was seeking a second term.

I don’t agree with some who suggest that Comey be fired or resign. He is a stand up guy and has been good for the FBI.

But in this case, he screwed up.

On the upside,  Comey has turned Donald Trump around. Trump now thinks he’s A-Ok.

Not many Boy Scouts can say they’ve got Donald Trump in their corner.

 

Ex-Justice Official: Comey’s Announcement ‘Raises Serious Questions About His Judgment’

Director James B. Comey

Director James B. Comey

 
Guest Columnist for the Washington Post

Matthew Miller was director of the Justice Department’s public affairs office from 2009 to 2011.

FBI Director James B. Comey’s stunning announcement that he has directed investigators to begin reviewing new evidence in the Clinton email investigation was yet another troubling violation of long-standing Justice Department rules or precedent, conduct that raises serious questions about his judgment and ability to serve as the nation’s chief investigative official.

Comey’s original sin came in July, when he held a high-profile news conference to announce his recommendation that the Justice Department bring no charges against Hillary Clinton. In doing so, Comey violated Justice rules about discussing ongoing cases and, as I argued at the time, made assertions that exceeded FBI authority, recklessly speculated about matters for which there was no evidence, and upended the consultative process that should exist between investigators and prosecutors.

Comey argued that his news conference was necessary in a case of intense public interest, but as his actions in the months since have shown, the precedent he set has led only to increasingly problematic outcomes.

To read the full column click here.

FBI Drops An October Bomb In Final Stretch of Presidential Race

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The path to the White House was looking pretty clear for Hillary Clinton, who has been ahead in the polls.

But on Friday, FBI Director James Comey dropped a bomb. The fall out may not be known for days until new polls come out, or perhaps until Nov. 8 when the votes are tallied.

Comey fired off a letter to Congress saying that the discovery of new emails required agents to determine if they were relevant to the Clinton email scandal involving the handling of classified information. The media reported that the emails were discovered while investigating ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner regarding provocative texts he sent an underage teen in North Carolina.

During that investigation, at least one device used by Weiner and his estranged wife, Clinton aide Huma Abedin, was discovered, ABC News reported. 

Comey came under attack from the Clinton camp and some former federal prosecutors who felt the letter to Congress was inappropriate, and the timing, 11 days before the election, was unfortunate and questionable.

“First, Director Comey acted totally inappropriately.  He had no business writing to Congress about supposed new emails that neither he nor anyone in the FBI has ever reviewed,” said attorney Nick Akerman, who was an Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor.  “It is not the function of the FBI Director to be making public pronouncements about an investigation, never mind about an investigation based on evidence that he acknowledges may not be significant.  The job of the FBI is simply to investigate and to provide the results of its investigation to the prosecutorial arm of the US Department of Justice.  His job is not to give a running commentary about any investigation or his opinion about any investigation.  This is particularly egregious since Secretary Clinton has no way to respond to what amounts to nebulous and speculative innuendo.”

In a memo to FBI employees, Comey explained his actions.

To all:

This morning I sent a letter to Congress in connection with the Secretary Clinton email investigation.  Yesterday, the investigative team briefed me on their recommendation with respect to seeking access to emails that have recently been found in an unrelated case.  Because those emails appear to be pertinent to our investigation, I agreed that we should take appropriate steps to obtain and review them.

Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record.  At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood, but I wanted you to hear directly from me about it.

Clinton issued a statement demanding that the FBI provide more information to the public about the emails in question.

Ditto for Reps. Elijah E. Cummings and John Conyers, ranking members of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary, sent the following letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey:

Dear Attorney General Lynch and Director Comey:

 Today, Director Comey sent a letter to eight Congressional Committees after the FBI learned of the existence of emails that may be pertinent to its investigation of former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s personal email server.

Although Director Comey’s letter was clear that none of the new material identified by the FBI may be “significant,” the letter provided such limited and vague information that it allowed rampant speculation, numerous leaks, and wild accusations just 11 days before the presidential election.

During Director Comey’s testimony before Congress on July 7, he made clear that the FBI was not treating Secretary Clinton differently from anyone else investigated by the FBI.  He explained that it would have been a double-standard to recommend prosecution based on the evidence the FBI had obtained.

In fairness to everyone involved, we are writing to request that the FBI and Department of Justice issue a more complete accounting of the details behind this letter, based on information from your career investigators and prosecutors, in order to debunk these conspiracy theories and correct the public record.

 

Weekend Series on Crime: Crystal Methamphetamine Side Effects

15 Years Later, Ex-Congressman Gary Condit Decides to Lie About His Relationship With Chandra Levy

screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-12-27-00-am

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ok, so it’s an election year where both sides in the presidential race have been endlessly accusing one another of lying. Perhaps, having been out of the game for a while,  former Congressman Gary Condit, a blue dog Democrat from California, feels left out and has the itch to lie, too.

I’m referring to his high-profile interview on Dr. Phil this week in which he insisted that he had a platonic relationship with intern Chandra Levy. He says police tried to frame him.

“I saw her one time outside the office, at a restaurant, and she came by my condo once,” Condit said of Levy on Dr. Phil. “Maybe twice. Yeah, I think it was twice she came by. Once again, I want to make this clear: There’s nothing unusual about someone coming by my condo. A lot of people did. People have made some speculation that that means something special … Both times she had a valid reason to come by.”

While at the Washington Post, I was one of the lead reporters who covered the tragic disappearance of Chandra Levy in 2001 and the discovery of her skeletal remains in 2002 in Rock Creek Park in northwest D.C.

Back in 2001, I first reported that Condit, during his first interview with D.C. police, admitted that Levy, who was from his California Congressional district, had slept over his apartment in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington. She was a 24-year-old intern with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Condit was then asked by police: So you were having an affair, to which he replied: “You figure it out.” At the time, details of the police interview were confirmed by five sources.

As the summer wore on, D.C. police and the FBI insisted that he was not a suspect. But they continued to investigate him, and follow up with interviews. He was certainly a person of interest, though there were some in law enforcement who felt strongly that he did not harm Levy.

Still, things weren’t going so well for Condit. The public was suspicious. (The next year he lost his bid for re-election).

His handlers, including the very aggressive and able Washington lawyer, Abbe Lowell, decided it would be best for him to take to the airwaves and clear things up.  ABC’s Connie Chung was granted the interview, which was a big get at the time.

On Aug. 23, 2001, the interview aired. It was a disaster.

Chandra Levy

Chandra Levy

A source who knew Condit told me that he was supposed begin the interview by reading a statement and admitting that he had an affair with Levy. The thought was that such candidness would give him credibility when he denied having anything to do with her disappearance.

Instead, he decided to forgo the statement and answer Chung’s questions.

It was a public relations nightmare. I watched the interview in the newsroom in near shock. I couldn’t believe he was being so evasive.

Chung asked if he had anything to do with her disappearance.

He responded: “No, I didn’t.”

She eventually got around to asking about the relationship.

CHUNG: Can you describe your relationship? What exactly was your relationship with Chandra Levy?

CONDIT: Well, I met Chandra … last, um, October. And we became very close. I met her in Washington, DC.

CHUNG Very close, meaning …?

CONDIT: We had a close relationship. I liked her very much.

CHUNG: May I ask you, was it a sexual relationship?

CONDIT: Well, Connie, I’ve been married for 34 years, and I’ve not been a … a perfect man, and I’ve made my share of mistakes. But um, out of respect for my family, and out of a specific request from the Levy family, I think it’s best that I not get into those details uh, about Chandra Levy.

If there were a time to plead his case, and deny having the relationship, it would have been then. But Condit knew better. So did the public.

Chung, who knew she had a ratings winner, pressed on. It was the biggest story of the summer.

CHUNG :  What we’re talking about is whether or not you will come forward to uh, lift this veil of suspicion that seems to have clouded you. Can you tell us … did you have a romantic relationship with Chandra Levy?

CONDIT:  Well, once again, I’ve been married 34 years. I have not been a perfect man. I have made mistakes in my life. But out of respect for my family, out of a specific request by the Levy family, it is best that I not get into the details of the relationship.

CHUNG:  Can you tell me this: was Chandra Levy in love with you? Were you in love with her?

CONDIT:  Well, I don’t know that she was in love with me. She never said so. And I was not in love with her.

CHUNG: Did she want to marry you and have your child?

CONDIT:  I only knew Chandra Levy for five months. And in that five months’ period, we never had a discussion about a future, about children, about marriage. Any of those items never came up in that five-month period.

CHUNG:  Did you ever make promises to her?

CONDIT: Never.

CHUNG: Did she want you to leave your wife?

CONDIT:  No. I mean, I’ve been married for 34 years, and I intend to stay married to that woman as long as she’ll have me.

And, oh yes, by the way, if there’s still any doubt,  investigators recovered a pair of  Chandra Levy’s underwear with Condit’s semen.

Condit has now written a book on his experiences titled: “Actual Malice: A True Crime Political Thriller.”

Obviously, he’ll sell more books if he’s viewed as a victim rather than a married Congressman full of b.s. who carried on an affair while his dutiful wife stayed back home in Modesto, Calif.

Eventually, the focus shifted to Ingmar Guandique, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador,  who ended up being convicted of Levy’s murder in 2010. He was  sentenced to 60 years in prison, but the conviction was tossed and a new trial was ordered. In July, shortly, before the trial was to begin, the U.S. Attorney’s Office  dropped the charges, saying it couldn’t prove the case.

Some people still think Guandique did it. After all, he had previously attacked female joggers in the park before Levy disappeared.

But others are once again asking: Who killed Chandra Levy?

Occupiers of Oregon Wildlife Refuge Found Not Guilty in Jury Trial

Burns, Oregon, where the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is located.

Burns, Oregon, where the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is located.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The trial involving seven people who participated in the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon ended Thursday with each defendant found not guilty of federal conspiracy charges.

Judge Anna Brown announced that the defendants – the standoff’s leader, Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan and five others – were not guilty of conspiracy to impede federal officers and not guilty of possession of firearms in a federal facility, the Washington Post reports. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, expressed disappointment over the jury’s decision.

“The occupation of the Malheur Refuge by outsiders did not reflect the Oregon way of respectfully working together to resolve differences,” Brown said in a statement Thursday.

Defendant Shawna Cox said the acquittal was a victory for the Constitution.

“We have to be vigilant people,” she told reporters. “Wake up, America, and help us restore the Constitution. Don’t sleep with your head in the sand.”

Former FBI Director Mueller Hired to Conduct Security Review of Booz Allen

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been hired by Booz Allan Hamilton, a firm whose employee was charged with stealing classified data from the NSA.

“We take the trust clients place in us seriously and are proud to support our country’s important national security missions,” Craig Veith, Booz Allen’s vice president for external relations, said in a statement, the Washington Post reports. “We are committed to doing our part to detect potential insider threats, which are complex and constantly evolving.”

The employee, Harold T. Martin, is accused of one of the largest thefts of classified material in U.S. history, allegedly stealing at least 50 terabytes of digital data – the equivalent of 500 million pages of information.

Mueller is tasked with reviewing the firm’s security processes.

Booz Allan is the same firm where Edward Snowden worked when he took sensitive information.

News-Journal: Justice Department Finally Collects More Data on Police Shootings

police lightsBy Editorial Board
Daytona Beach News-Journal

Missing from the national debate on police officer-involved shootings, such as when deadly force is justified and how often race plays a role, is one key component: actual data.

It’s been one of the most confounding revelations since civil unrest over a police shooting erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, in summer 2014: No one knows exactly how many people are shot by law enforcement each year, and what the circumstances are in each instance. The federal government doesn’t have the numbers, and neither do most states — including Florida, a deficiency exposed by the Daytona Beach News-Journal last year in “Shots Fired,” its special investigation of civilians being shot by state and local law-enforcement officers.

Since Ferguson, and since “Shots Fired,” more highly publicized officer-involved shootings around the nation have sparked organized protests to draw attention to the issue. What’s needed in the emotional discussion are some cold, hard facts.

Thankfully, the Justice Department recently announced it would start collecting nationwide data early next year on police shootings and other violent encounters with the public. It’s a long-overdue move to establish what should have been a fundamental responsibility of law enforcement from the outset.

Indeed, the Washington Post got the jump on the government last year by compiling its own national database of police shootings, a gap that FBI Director James Comey said was “embarrassing.”

“We can’t have an informed discussion because we don’t have data,” Comey told the House Judiciary Committee last October.

To read more click here.