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stejskalGreg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Michigan Case That Tested Free Speech in the Early Days of the Internet

The writer, an FBI agent for 31 years, retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office in 2006.

By Greg Stejskal

Free speech has limits, as a famous Supreme Court example illustrates. “Falsely shouting fire in a theater” is not constitutionally protected speech, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1919.

Featured_baker_37520
(Photo: Michigan Technology Law Review)

Nearly eight decades later, the first criminal prosecution of threats on the Internet again tested the boundary of free speech. I was a player in that 1995 landmark case.

The defendant was a 20-year-old University of Michigan student who shortened his name to Jake Baker, rather than using Abraham Jacob Alkhabaz. He was described as quiet and nice, and wrote stories with innocent titles like “Going for a Walk.”

But he harbored demons. The stories were lurid, graphic tales of kidnappng, raping, torturing and killing young women – so called snuff stories. Jake posted these at alt.sex.stories, a Usenet chat group, when the Internet was in its infancy. His case raised issues we had not faced.

Urgent questions, still

Almost 25 years later, we still face the tricky, high-stakes questions: Where does freedom of speech end and when does it become a crime? How do you predict when hateful or misogynistic speech will morph into violence? Is it a crime to threaten violence?


Greg Stejskal: Judge Avern Cohn “criticized the government and its ‘overzealous agent,’ referring to me.”

To examine the issue, it’s worth looking back at the federal case of United States v. Alkhabaz, a touchstone in the history of cyber law.

Back then, few people knew of the Internet. Baker’s writings were discovered thanks to a Michigan alumnus, who happened to be in Russia. He stumbled across one of Jake’s stories and knew from the IP address that Jake had some UM affiliation.

The story used the name of a real Michigan coed as a victim. (In court papers and media accounts, she was referred to as Jane Doe.) The real Jane was not aware of her characterization in the story or that she was about to be a player in a First Amendment controversy.

The alum contacted university officials, who notified the campus Department of Public Safety. Detectives talked to Jake and obtained a warrant to search his computer and email account.

‘Torture is foreplay’

Jake lived in the East Quadrangle dormitory, which also housed future mail bomber Ted Kaczynski during the mid-1960s. The search revealed several more snuff stories by Jake. Two used Jane Doe’s name and one had her address and phone number.

One story used Jane Doe’s last name in the title of the story. A paragraph in that story achieved notoriety as it appeared often in the print media. (“As an introduction to his stories, Jake wrote: ‘Torture is foreplay. Rape is romance. Snuff is climax.'”)

This is an excerpt from that story:

Then Jerry and I tie her by her long brown hair to the ceiling fan, so that she is dangling midair. Her feet don’t touch the ground. She kicks trying to hit me, Jerry or the gorund [sic]. The sight of her wiggling in mid-air, hands rudely taped behind her back, turns me on. Jerry takes a big spiky hair-brush and starts beating her small breasts with it, coloring them with nice red marks. She screams and struggles harder.

At this point the story goes from R-rated to X-rated. It ends with Jake’s protagonist lighting Jane Doe on fire.

Vivid, scary emails

The search of his email account revealed numerous messages between Jake and an individual identifying himself as Arthur Gonda, believed to be residing in Ontario, Canada.

Featured_online_hate_speech__depositphotos_37517
We still face the question of where freedom of speech ends and when it’s a crime. (Graphic: DepositPhotos)

 

In these messages Jake and Gonda discuss actually getting together to commit the acts Jake had depicted. This is part of a December 1994 email from Jake to Gonda:

I’ve started doing is going back and rereading earlier messages of yours. Each time I do, they turn me on more and more. I can’t wait to see you in person. I’ve been trying to think of secluded spots, but my area knowledge of Ann Arbor is limited to the campus. I don’t want any blood in my room, though I’ve come upon an excellent method to abduct a bitch – As I said before, my room is right across from the girl’s bathroom. Wiat [sic] until late at night, grab her when she goes to unlock the door. Knock her unconscious, and put her into one of those portable lockers (forgot the word for it), or even a duffle bag. Then hurry her out to the car and take her away …what do you think?

This was Gonda’s response:

Hi Jake. I have been out tonight and I can tell you that I am thinking more and more about “doing” a girl. I can picture it so well … and I can think of no better use of their flesh. I HAVE to make a bitch suffer!

Jake’s response. in part:

I know how you feel. I’ve been masturbating like the devil recently. Just thinking about it anymore doesn’t do the trick … I need TO DO IT.

I saw an illegal threat

When the Washtenaw County prosecutor told campus police no state statute let the student be charged with a crime, UM’s force contacted the local FBI office.

After reading Jake’s stories and emails, I concluded that the electronic messages in context with the stories constituted a threat as defined by a federal statute [18 USC 875(c)] that deals with transmitting “in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or to injure any person.”

The statute was written long before the Internet, but that new tool clearly was an instrument of interstate commerce.

I presented the case to the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s office, which agreed with my conclusion. Our contention was that Jake had threatened not only Jane Doe, but all coeds in East Quad.

Jake was arrested on a complaint and warrant and arraigned before a federal magistrate in Detroit. We did not request detention, but after reading some of Jake’s literary works, the magistrate felt he was dangerous and ordered him kept in custody.

Fantasies are protected speech


The New York Times covered the case.

The case was assigned to District Court Judge Avern Cohn. It was apparent that Judge Cohn wasn’t a fan of the government’s case. He made it clear that Jake’s stories were protected by the First Amendment’s free speech clause and couldn’t be part of the prosecution.

So when Jake was indicted, all references to the stories were eliminated. (I argued against dropping the stories, as I believed Cohn would toss the case no matter what we did. In addition to providing context, the stories named a potential victim with her actual address.)

Cohn did dismiss the indictment, saying Jake’s emails were nothing more than a private conversation discussing fantasies and were thus protected as free speech. He criticized the government and its “overzealous agent,” referring to me.

The government appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. A 2-1 decision by that Cincinnati court said the emails did not constitute a threat because they were “not conveyed to effect some change or achieve some goal through intimidation.”

The dissenting judge pointed out — correctly, I think — that if Congress intended proof of such an intent, it would have said so. (The appellate judges could not consider the emails in context with the gruesome stories, as they weren’t part of the indictment.)

A modern conundrum

I don’t know where Jake is now, and I have no reason to believe he ever tried to bring his horrific fantasies to life. But he might have if we hadn’t interceded. (He spent 30 days in the U.S. Marshals’ detention facility before Cohn tossed the indictment.)

In an age of terrorism, both domestic and international, law enforcement is left with the conundrum of how to address Internet communications that could be preparation for criminal acts.

Most mass shootings have been preceded by Internet postings from the shooter. The alleged El Paso shooter who killed 22 people Aug. 3 posted a white nationalist screed, saying in part: “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators not me. I am simply defending my country from the cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by the invasion.”

His Walmart murders occurred minutes after the posting. But if no attack occurred, would the screed constitute a criminal threat that could be prosecuted?

In its effort to combat domestic terrorism, the FBI pays more attention to social media — including chatrooms and sites frequented by white nationalists, as well as sites where misogynistic messages are shared.

Chilling connection from 1995 to 2019

In 1995, we may have been on to something but didn’t know it: Misogyny — the professed hatred of women and or violent acts against women — is a characteristic of shooters in more than half of U.S. mass shootings from 2009-17.

Analysts who monitor these sites are developing profiles of potential mass shooters based on their posts. Their findings, coupled with stricter background checks and a federal red flag law, would not eliminate all mass shootings — but would stop some.

A recent example is the June 2019 arrest of Ross Farca, 23, by police in Concord, Calif., based on FBI information. Farca allegedly had made online threats to do a mass shooting at a synagogue.

He had written, in part: “I would probably get a body count of like 30 k***s (an ethnic slur for Jews) and then like five police officers because I would also decide to fight to the death.”

No date, time or specific synagogue was identified.

This alleged threat led a search warrant to be executed at Farca’s residence, whgere law enforcers found an illegally modified AR-15, 30 high-capacity magazines and Nazi literature. Farca is charged with making criminal threats and possessing an illegal assault rifle. He’s out on $125,000 bail to await trial.

Perhaps this was a mass shooting that didn’t occur because of better vigilance of the Internet and a better understanding of what constitutes a threat.


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The Not-So Shocking Revelation that Some Asian Spas are Really Brothels

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Last week in Jupiter, Florida, the Orchids of Asia Day Spa was raided and closed allegedly for being a prostitution business, a brothel. Making it a prominent story on national news was the identity of one of the spa customers, Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots. Kraft has been charged with soliciting prostitution.

Robert Kraft

Surprising to me was the reaction of law enforcement and the media. It reminded me of that iconic scene from the movie, “Casablanca:”

The local police chief, Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) is closing Rick’s American Café. When asked why he’s closing the Café, Renault replies. “I am shocked – shocked – to find that gambling (think prostitution) is going on here!” After delivering that line, the croupier hands Renault a stack of bills and says, “Your winnings sir.” Renault thanks the croupier and quickly walks away.

I find it hard to believe that the media and law enforcement like Capt. Renault didn’t know that many storefront Asian spas/massage parlors are in fact brothels. The story that follows was posted in 2009 on the federal law enforcement website, ticklethewire.com. 

In 1999, the Ann Arbor (MI) Police Department came to me with a proposal. AAPD wanted to know if the FBI would be willing to help investigate Asian spas/massage parlors in Ann Arbor, and prosecute them federally. There were five Asian spas in Ann Arbor, and they strongly suspected that the spas were fronts and were actually brothels. At the time I was the senior agent in the local FBI office and knew next to nothing about Asian spas.

Greg Stejskal

I consulted with US Attorney’s Office (USAO) in the Eastern District of Michigan and FBIHQ. I got the go ahead and learned there were other similar cases being pursued elsewhere in the country. We would coordinate our investigation with those other cases. Further, there were national implications involved, e.g., organized crime, indentured servitude, immigrant smuggling, human trafficking and sexual exploitation which the then US Attorney General had made a priority. The Asian spa/brothel seemed to be a national phenomenon.

I went back to AAPD and told them we could pursue the spas federally, but only if AAPD was willing to commit to a long-term investigation. To AAPD’s credit it made that commitment.

At the outset of the case, we understood the spas could be shut down like the speakeasies of the prohibition era, but to have any lasting impact the owners had to be identified and prosecuted. It was relatively easy to show there was prostitution occurring in these spas, the trick (no pun intended) was to prove the owners had knowledge that prostitution was occurring, and they were profiting from it.

All the spas in Ann Arbor were run by Korean Americans. (We code-named our investigation Seoul Provider.) Surveillance and telephone pen-registers indicated some interaction between spas in Ann Arbor and all over the country. All the spas we became aware of in Michigan and Ohio were run by Korean Americans, and they all had very similar operating procedures.

The working girls were almost exclusively Asian and lived on the premises and seldom left. They moved from one spa to another after six weeks to two months often in other parts of the country. The spas were usually managed by older Asian women, who were in effect madams. Often the spas would have the working girls sign agreements making them independent contractors, thus giving the owners plausible deniability as to knowledge of sexual activity. The working girls were in almost all cases uncooperative with law enforcement and could not be relied upon as potential witnesses. Despite the women being exploited, most had very limited skills, little English language capability and were in an indentured servitude status. Many were told the expenses that were incurred to get them to and into the US was a debt and had to be repaid.

The spas operated seven days a week with very long hours, e.g., 10 AM – 2 AM. (not the kind of hours of operation in legitimate massage parlors and probably a clue). The spas would set fees such as $45 for a half hour and $60 for an hour massage. Generally, these fees went to the house. The money for sex was added to the initial fee and was negotiated based on the agreed sexual activity. The money for sex was split between the house and the girls. All the spas we investigated accepted credit cards. This turned out to be a key element in proving the owners’ knowledge.

Read more »


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Inside the Beltway: Of Rats and Witch Hunts

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

By Greg Stejskal

“Conspiracies hatched in hell can not have angels for witnesses.” – is an adage sometimes used by prosecutors in criminal cases. The point being that in order to prove the existence of a conspiracy, which by design is done in secrecy, it may be necessary to have as witnesses a person or persons who were involved in the conspiracy. (A good Hollywood dramatization of how this works is depicted in Elia Kazan’s film, “On the Waterfront.”)

Coconspirators turned cooperating witnesses are problematic for the prosecutor because the witness by his/her own admission was a participant in a criminal conspiracy. In order to make a strong case, these non-angelic witnesses’ testimony is usually corroborated by other evidence.

Further strengthening their credibility, the testifying conspirator has admitted their involvement in the conspiracy and have often pleaded guilty and been sentenced for the act(s) for which they are testifying.

Using coconspirators as witnesses is a long established and necessary practice in criminal prosecutions. The federal rules of evidence allows for an exception to the hearsay rule: the conspirator can testify as to statements by another conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy. It is also common practice for the defense to attack the credibility of these witnesses.

What is unusual in my experience is attacking the practice of using a conspirator as a witness as something to be “outlawed” and referring to such witnesses as “flippers.” Such attacks were recently made by the president of the United States.

President Donald Trump

Flippers are apparently witnesses who have admitted to their participation in a criminal conspiracy, pleaded guilty to their involvement and agreed to truthfully testify under oath about the conspiracy. The president has also characterized some of these witnesses as “rats,” saying they are disloyal and lying to get a more favorable sentence. Thus, sounding more like Johnny Friendly, a mob boss, in “On the Waterfront” than the president.

The president has also seemed to imply that those who don’t flip and remain loyal to him will be rewarded with a presidential pardon – the ultimate “get out of jail free card.” (A pardon presupposes guilt for the act or acts that are being pardoned.) And this is where it gets really bizarre – the president using his pardon power to encourage potential witnesses to not cooperate with the US Department of Justice. That would seem to be a prima facia case of obstruction of justice.

If as the president has repeatedly said, the special counsel probe is a “witch hunt” then the president has nothing to fear from cooperating witnesses who will be under oath and subject to perjury charges should they lie.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said: “I have never met or heard of anyone who could out-smart honesty.”

 


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HBO Docu-drama Makes Me Think How Bo Schembechler Would Have Handled the Penn State Scandal

HBO has produced a docu-drama about Joe Paterno & the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal starring Al Pacino as Paterno. This column first ran in 2012 and is a summary of what the investigation of the scandal revealed and poses the question, how Bo Schembechler would have dealt with the Sandusky and the scandal.

The author (right) Greg Stejksal and late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

Last November I wrote a column about how I thought legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler would have handled the Penn State scandal.

Since then Joe Paterno was fired and subsequently died from cancer. Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 46 of 48 counts of sexual child abuse involving 10 boys.

Now the results of an independent investigation, the Freeh report, have been released.

As I had speculated in my column, Joe Paterno knew of allegations of Sandusky’s sexual child abuse as early as 1998. He apparently forced Sandusky to “retire” from the PSU coaching staff (after the 1999 season), but gave him a unique severance package including $168,000 and the designation Assistant Professor Emeritus – thus, allowing Sandusky continued, unrestricted access to Penn State athletic facilities.

This makes Paterno’s actions and inaction in 2002 all the more indefensible. When confronted with an eyewitness account of Sandusky sexually abusing a child in a shower at the PSU football facility, Paterno passed the report to his superiors.

Not Report It 

But rather than actively pursue it, Paterno counseled that the allegations not be reported to law enforcement or child welfare services.

Paterno was an active participant in the cover-up. Then he lied about it under oath.

I am more certain now that faced with the situation that occurred at Penn State, Bo Schembechler would have handled it differently from the beginning, and it would not have ended like this.

Here is the column as it appeared last November:

“Do the Right Thing –Always,” Bo Schembechler

I want to preface this by saying, I was an admirer of Joe Paterno and Penn State football, which in my adult life have been synonymous. I don’t know Joe Paterno, but I know that he has been head coach at Penn State for 46 years and has been extremely successful, winning 409 games and two national championships.

Paterno achieved this seemingly without compromising sound values. His players were encouraged to be student-athletes with equal emphasis on the student part.

All About Honor

The football program’s slogan was “success with honor.” All of that including Paterno’s legacy is in jeopardy.

There was a seamy underside to all that success, Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky played for Paterno then became a coach. Ultimately he was Penn State’s defensive coordinator (the face of Linebacker U).

He was characterized as Paterno’s heir apparent. But if numerous allegations are to believed, Sandusky was, at least, as far back as the mid 90s, a child molester – using his position and its status to sexually abuse young boys.

Sandusky’s alleged transgressions go beyond despicable, but the issue for Paterno is what did he know, when did he know it and what did he do about it.

According to the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, that was investigating the allegations against Sandusky, in 1998 the Penn State police conducted an investigation regarding allegations that Sandusky was in involved in the molesting of young boys.

The case was presented to the local prosecuting attorney, but no charges were brought as a result of that investigation. (It is difficult to believe a case could be presented to the prosecutor without Paterno being aware of the investigation.) Coincident with the conclusion of that investigation, Sandusky was informed by Paterno that he would not be Paterno’s successor as head coach. Following the 1999 football season, at the age of 55, Sandusky retired from the Penn State coaching staff.

I don’t know what caused Sandusky’s precipitous fall from grace, but the timing, at best, seems curious.

Although Sandusky was no longer on the Penn State coaching staff, he was still a member of the PSU faculty. He remained an Assistant Professor of Physical Education Emeritus with full access to Athletic Department facilities and other perks.

According to the Grand Jury report, March 1, 2002, Mike McQueary, a PSU football graduate assistant (now the wide-receiver coach) saw Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in the shower area of the football building. McQueary knew Sandusky and was shocked and unsettled, but on the following day he reported what he had seen to Paterno.

Paterno then told the Penn State Athletic Director, Tim Curley, of McQueary’s eyewitness account. Later McQueary would be interviewed by Curley and Penn State Senior Vice-President, Gary Schultz. It is not clear what further actions were taken as to Sandusky, but it is clear this incident was never reported to the police or child welfare authorities. Nor apparently was any action taken to identify the young boy or ascertain his welfare.

Sandusky retained his Assistant Professorship (He was listed in the faculty directory as recently as last week.) and his access to University facilities. According to the Grand Jury report, Sandusky’s abuse of young boys continued after 2002.

So did Paterno fulfill his responsibility as head football coach and as Sandusky’s former boss?

I don’t think it can be overstated the prestige and sheer clout that Paterno has at Penn State, but for whatever reason, he apparently never used any of that to further pursue the Sandusky matter or to inquire about the welfare of the alleged victims.

What Bo Schembechler Would Have Done 

In comparison, I pose the hypothetical question: What would Bo Schembechler have done?

Bo is a man I did know. Bo was a legendary football coach at Michigan from 1969-1989 and a peer of Paterno.

To the best of my knowledge, Bo never had to deal with any of his staff being alleged child molesters. He did have situations that required staff and players having to take responsibility for their acts even if it might reflect badly on Michigan, a place he loved and revered.

In 1987, the FBI was investigating two sports agents, Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, who had ties to organized crime. Walters and Bloom had worked up a scam where they bribed blue-chip college football players to sign post-dated, secret, agency contracts while they were still eligible to play college football – a clear violation of NCAA rules. Ultimately some of the players balked, threats were made by Walters and Bloom, and the whole thing fell apart.

Players who had signed the contracts were identified. They were all star players on prominent college teams. Two of the players were on Bo’s 1986 Michigan team.

When Bo found out, he was livid. He called one of the players, Garland Rivers, an All-American DB, into the office and had Rivers tell him the whole story. Then Bo called me.

Tell The FBI

When I got to Bo’s office, Bo told Rivers “Tell this FBI agent everything about your relationship with Norby Walters.” Bo could have distanced himself and Michigan from the investigation. Michigan would have been just one of many major football programs victimized by Walters and Bloom. But that wasn’t Bo. Damage control doesn’t mean hiding from the truth. It means taking responsibility for your actions and trying to rectify the mistakes.

Walters and Bloom had enticed his players to break the rules. They had besmirched Michigan. Bo knew he had to take a stand and do what he could to protect future players from illicit agents. Later when Walters and Bloom went on trial in Federal Court for racketeering and fraud, Bo testified. He was the star witness. His testimony was so strong, the defense declined to cross exam him. Walters and Bloom were convicted. What had been a dark moment in Michigan football history was a comeback win as important as any that had occurred on the field.

So what would Bo have done if faced with an assistant coach who was allegedly molesting young boys. We’ll never know for sure, but I’m certain that he wouldn’t have just reported the allegations to his boss and done nothing else. Bo would have made sure the police were aware of the allegations. And that assistant coach would not have had access to Michigan athletic facilities or be emeritus anything.

It has been said that Paterno fulfilled his legal responsibility by reporting the allegations to the Penn State AD. However, it would seem he did not fulfill his moral responsibility by making sure the allegations were pursued and, thus, protecting potential future victims. We may never know why Paterno failed to pursue the Sandusky matter further.

Perhaps Paterno didn’t do more out of a misguided effort to protect the reputation of Penn State, but if that was the motive, far more damage has been done to Penn State’s reputation than would have been done had this matter been fully confronted in 1998 or 2002.

Bo did not see degrees of honor and integrity. You either did the right thing or you didn’t – half way was unacceptable.

 

 


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I Stand By My Critique of the Discovery Channel Series on the Unabomber

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. He wrote two critiques (1 and 2)  of the Discovery Channel series, “Manhunt Unabomber,” in which he criticized the way FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald was portrayed as having a much bigger role in the Unabomber case than he actually did.  Fitzgerald, who is now retired responded that he had a bigger role than Stejskal acknowledged and that the show also took artistic license to make him look as if he did more than he actually did. This is Stejskal’s response to Fitzgerald’s column. 

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

I wasn’t going to respond to Jim Fitzgerald’s recent rebuttal to my two critiques of the Discovery Channel series, “Manhunt-Unabomber,” but Mr. Fitzgerald personally called me out and seemingly questioned my voracity.

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

“In closing, one doesn’t have to be a criminal profiler or forensic linguist to realize that Stejskal’s continued silence regarding his alleged sources speaks volumes regarding what he wrote about me. Quite frankly, it speaks volumes about him, too.”

First, I stand by everything I wrote in those two critiques. As for my sources, they were all longtime members of the Unabomber Task Force. Several of them were in leadership roles. (Since writing the critiques, I have heard from other members of the UTF thanking me for writing them – none have challenged the accuracy of what I wrote.)

Fitzgerald has questioned what, if any, was my role in the Unabomber investigation. I was the case agent on the James McConnell bombing. University of Michigan Professor McConnell was the tenth victim of the Unabomber/Kaczynski in 1985. My involvement in the investigation continued through the identification, arrest and prosecution of Kaczynski. I have never claimed to be any thing more than a member of the investigative team.

In Fitzgerald’s rebuttal, he suggests that I don’t understand the concepts of dramatic license or the use of a composite character. I addressed the use of dramatic license in my first critique.

James Fitzgerald

I do understand the need to sometimes use a composite character to simplify the plot and/or make a more compelling story. But I am admittingly confused why the composite character in the Unabomber series bears the name of Jim Fitzgerald which in effect gives the Fitzgerald character credit for the work of other agents. In the series no other agents’ true names were used. Several of those agents had far more involvement in key aspects of the investigation than did Fitzgerald. (Fitzgerald was a paid consultant for the series and involved in promoting the series when it first aired in the summer of 2017.)

I will again quote one of my personal heroes, Bo Schembechler, legendary Michigan Football Coach:

“No man is greater than the team, no coach is greater than the team; the team, the team, the team.”


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The Unabomber and I Agree on One Thing: The Discovery Channel Series Was Chock Full of Inaccuracies

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

A few months ago, I wrote a critique of the Discovery Channel series, “Manhunt: Unabomber.” My concern shared by a number of agents that were on the Unabom Task Force was that the series portrayed a minor player on the UTF, Jim Fitzgerald, as the agent who broke the case and was involved in key aspects of the investigation. None of which was true. The series then built on that fiction by depicting a relationship between Fitzgerald and the Unabomber/Ted Kaczynski that never happened. *

Now, it seems that Ted Kaczynski is also critical of the Discovery Channel series, and in a weird twist Kaczynski cites my critique to bolster his position.

Kaczynski was responding to a letter he received from a woman (I will call her Jane Doe.) asking him about certain aspects of the Unabomber series. Jane sent the letter to Kaczynski at the federal maximum-security penitentiary at Florence, Colorado, where he is incarcerated.  Specifically, Jane’s inquiry was about the series indicating that Kaczynski’s criminal activity was at least in part due to Kaczynski’s participation in a psychological study while an undergrad at Harvard in 1959. According to the TV series, the study at Harvard was part of a secret CIA project code named MK Ultra.

Mind Control Program

MK Ultra was a CIA program initiated in 1953 to develop techniques and drugs to be used for interrogation to elicit information and/or confessions through “mind control.” The program was a response to Soviet, Chinese and North Korean use of mind-control techniques (also referred to as brainwashing) on US prisoners during the Korean War – the “Manchurian Candidate” phenomenon. **

Much is still not known about the MK Ultra project as many records were destroyed. It is known that the project involved about 80 institutions in Canada and the US including at least 44 colleges and universities, also some hospitals and prisons. Some of the institutions were not aware of that the CIA was sponsoring the studies. The CIA used front organizations to hide their involvement.

Some of the participants weren’t even aware they were participating in a study. This was especially true in the project’s efforts to develop mind-controlling drugs. LSD was one of the main drugs experimented with and sometimes administered without the subjects’ knowledge.

One of the CIA’s primary concerns was that there were “moles,” double agents, controlled by the Soviets within the US’ and its allies’ intelligence services. There was a fixation on developing techniques and drugs that could be used to elicit the truth from suspected moles or their handlers.

It has been theorized and the Discovery Channel Unabomber series portrays as fact that the personality study that Kaczynski participated in at Harvard which was supervised by Professor Henry A. Murray was part of the MK Ultra project. This study, it is alleged, was so traumatizing that it resulted in psychological damage to Kaczynski which led to his later criminal acts.

Professor Murray used 22 Harvard undergrads in his study including Kaczynski. The studies were controversial and, among other things, were designed to measure people’s reactions under extreme stress. This had the legitimate goal of trying to determine what personality traits are most beneficial in dealing with stress. Consequentially, a large portion of Murray’s study involved the use of personality traits questionnaires. (Prof. Murray was one of the pioneers in developing the ubiquitous personality questionnaires, e.g., would you rather be in a room full of people or in the woods by yourself.)

There does not seem to be any evidence that Prof. Murray’s studies were connected to the CIA MK Ultra project although Prof. Murray did work with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II, helping to produce a psychological profile of Adolph Hitler. The OSS became the CIA after the War.

But even if Prof. Murray’s studies were part of the MK Ultra project, Kaczynski in his response to Jane Doe’s letter debunks the theory that his participation in the study caused such psychological damage to him that it resulted in his serial bombings.

Kaczynski’s Letter 

This is a portion of Kaczynski’s letter addressing the Discovery Channel Unabomber series:

“From several people I’ve received letters concerning that Discovery Channel series about me, and it’s clear from their letters that the Discovery series is even worse than most of the other media stories about me. In fact, the greater part of it is pure fiction. Among other things, they apparently passed on to their viewers the tale through the agency of Harvard professor H. A. Murray I was repeatedly “tortured” as part of the an “MK-Ultra” mind-control program conducted by the CIA. The truth is that in the course of the Murray study there was one and only one unpleasant experience. It lasted about half an hour and could not have been described as “torture” even in the loosest sense of the word. Mostly the Murray study consisted of interviews and the filling-out of pencil-and-paper personality tests. The CIA was not involved.

“Since people may find it difficult to believe that the media would broadcast such a conglomeration of outright lies, I’m sending you herewith a copy of an article by FBI agent Greg Stejskal in which Stejskal confirms that the greater part of the Discovery series is fiction. Stejskal’s purpose is to defend the honor of the FBI, not to tell the truth about Ted Kaczynski (in fact, not all of his statements about me are strictly accurate), but the fact that Discovery lied about the FBI investigation should make it easier for people to believe that they lied about me too.”

It is an interesting and sort of tantalizing theory that a CIA mind-control project caused Kaczynski’s later criminal acts – he became a “Manchurian Candidate” run amuck. But Kaczynski dispels that whole notion.

Kaczynski already provided the reasoning and motivation behind his bombings in his 35,000-word manifesto.

For the record I’m ambivalent about being in common cause with Ted Kaczynski regarding the factual accuracy of the Discovery Channel Unabomber series, but in a sense, we both have an interest in protecting the integrity of the historical record.

** The Manchurian Candidate, a 1959 novel, by Richard Condon adapted into a movie in 1962 and again in 2004. It’s a political thriller about a soldier in the Korean War who while a POW through various mind control techniques used by the Soviets and Chinese is turned into an unwitting assassin for a communist conspiracy in the U.S.


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What the Discovery Channel Gets Wrong In Its Series on the Unabomber

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

The Discovery Channel TV series, “Manhunt Unabomber,” disrespects achievements of  the “Unabom” investigation by creating a predominantly fictionalized story.

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

Theodore Kaczynski (FBI photo)

One of the shows I watched in my youth was “The Untouchables.” I was about ten when it premiered in 1959 on TV, and it was one the things that inspired me to want to be a G-man. The first episodes of “The Untouchables” were based on Eliot Ness’ book by the same name that he wrote with Oscar Fraley a sportswriter. (The book was published in 1957 less than a year after Ness’ death.) Those early episodes closely followed the book and were presented as a true story. It is very good story – a crusading lawman puts together a team, a group of incorruptible agents who take on Chicago’s biggest crime lord, the ruthless Al Capone, and topple his empire that was built on the manufacture and sale of beer and liquor during prohibition.

The problem is some of the key parts of the story aren’t true.

The Untouchables didn’t topple Capone. They did raid and destroy some of Capone’s distilleries and breweries. This diminished Capone’s bootleg income and inconvenienced him financially, but it was the IRS agents working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that toppled Capone. The IRS agents and U.S. attorneys built a strong tax evasion case against Capone independent of Ness and the Untouchables. Capone was convicted of five counts of tax evasion and no violations of the Volstead Act (the illegal manufacture and/or sale of alcohol for consumption). Capone was sentenced to 11 years, most of which he served at Alcatraz off the coast of San Francisco.

Ness Never Met Capone

Unlike the TV series or the subsequent movie, which was even more fictionalized, Ness and Capone never met. There was no dramatic confrontation.

Ness and Fraley in writing the book embellished the truth regarding Ness’ role in the demise of the Capone empire, and the TV series that followed solidified that fiction. Those IRS agents and US attorneys who successfully prosecuted Capone are forgotten. (For the record, the Chicago U.S. attorney who prosecuted Capone was George E.Q. Johnson, and the lead IRS agent was Frank Wilson – lest we forget.)

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That brings me to a series currently running on the Discovery Channel about the “Unabom” investigation. The show makes the usual claim/disclaimer that it’s based on a true story. Unfortunately, it’s more fiction than truth. The series makes a large departure from the truth – it portrays a minor player on the Unabom Task Force (UTF), Jim Fitzgerald, as the investigator who broke the case and was involved in key aspects of the case. It then builds on that fiction by depicting a relationship between the Unabomber/Ted Kaczynski and Fitzgerald that never happened.

The Unabom (FBI shorthand for University and Airline Bomber) investigation began in 1978 with the first bomb and continued until the Unabomber was identified, arrested and prosecuted in 1998. (The last bombing was in 1995.) The investigation was the longest and most expensive in FBI history. Many people were involved in the investigation from different agencies. Some spent a substantial portion of their careers on the investigation. All kinds of investigative techniques were utilized, huge data bases were built and countless leads were followed only to what seemed to be dead ends.

In the later years, a Unabom Task Force was formed in San Francisco. The lead agency was the FBI, but there were representatives from the U.S. Postal Inspectors and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). San Francisco had been the mailing origin for some of the later bombs, and the San Francisco Chronicle was one of the newspapers that Unabomber had chosen to communicate through with law enforcement.

Finally, the big break came when the Unabomber claimed that he would discontinue his use of bombings to kill if his 35,000-word manifesto were printed in a major newspaper. (He did reserve the right to commit acts of sabotage without targeting people.) It was decided that the publication could lead to identifying the Unabomber, but a major newspaper had to be persuaded to publish it.

The Attorney General, Janet Reno, the then Director of the FBI, Louie Freeh, the San Francisco Special Agent in Charge, Jim Freeman, the Assistant SAC, Terry Turchie and Kathy Puckett, an FBI agent and a member of the UTF with a psychology background (PhD), met with and persuaded the very reluctant editors of the NY Times and the Washington Post to publish the manifesto. It was decided that the Post would publish the manifesto in its entirety, and the newspapers agreed to share the immense cost of the publication. (Jim Fitzgerald had no part in this process.)

Publication Triggers Suspicions

The publication led to David Kaczynski and his wife’s realization that David’s brother, Ted, was probably the Unabomber. (David’s wife had suspected that Ted was the Unabomber for a while.) They reached this conclusion by comparing some of Ted’s early writings with the manifesto.

Through their attorney they communicated their conclusion to the UTF.  When members of the UTF saw Ted Kaczynski’s early writings and compared them to the manifesto, most if not all of them thought they were written by the same person. No special analytical technique was necessary. (Jim Fitzgerald was not the first one to make this determination. He reached the same conclusion as did most of the other members of the UTF.)

David Kaczynski’s attorney told the UTF that Ted was living in a small cabin in Lincoln, Montana. A surveillance was quickly begun of Ted in Lincoln. Various UTF members and other agents were infiltrated into Lincoln using assumed identities. At the same time, investigation and interviews were conducted in all the locations where Ted had lived and gone to school.

All this information was analyzed and put together for a search warrant affidavit establishing probable cause to search Ted’s cabin. After the surveillance had been ongoing for about six weeks, the search warrant affidavit was presented to a local federal magistrate who issued the search warrant. A ruse was developed to get Ted to come out of his cabin, and the cabin was searched.

The search found: bomb making materials; voluminous incriminating documents including an original draft of the manifesto and a coded diary confessing to all of the bombings; the typewriter used to type the manifesto and a fully constructed bomb ready to be sent – the bomb was designed as an anti-personal bomb, despite Ted’s promise not to kill.

Post Arrest 

After Ted’s arrest, he was interviewed by Postal Inspector Paul Wilhelmus and FBI agent Max Noel. Both had been involved in the Unabom investigation for years. Ted did not confess, but after what was found in the cabin, it wasn’t necessary. (Jim Fitzgerald was never in Lincoln during the search of the cabin and the arrest of Ted. Consequently, he had no part in the search nor the interview.)

Like Eliot Ness, who never met Al Capone, Jim Fitzgerald never met Ted Kaczynski.

Much later Jim Fitzgerald in an interview with Newsweek, implied that his “forensic linguistic analysis” identified Ted Kaczynski as the Unabomer. In the Newsweek piece, that identification is referred to as a “defining moment in Fitzgerald’s career” – no such moment occurred.

I realize that the Discovery Unabomber series is a dramatization not a documentary, and it’s difficult to make a long often tedious investigation into a compelling story. But that’s not an excuse to make a minor member of a team who was only on the team for a matter of months into the star player who won the game. I’m not sure why the writers took this tack, and I don’t do screen plays, but maybe an ensemble cast of unique characters would have worked. That’s what the task force was – kind of like the movie, “Spotlight.”

The Unabom investigation is a great story and can be told without embellishing the minimal role of one agent in the investigation and thereby diminishing all those that contributed to a monumental team effort.

As the legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler said:

“No man is greater than the team; no coach is greater than the team; the team, the team, the team.”


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Hunting for The Joker

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

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In the Spring of 1989, a drama fraught with irony began playing out in Austria. A Jewish American family, a mother and her two grown sons, were fighting extradition to the US. About 50 years before, Jewish families were desperately trying to leave Austria for safe havens like the U.S.

The subjects of the extradition were Linda Leary and sons, Paul and Richard Heilbrunn. They fled to Austria from Indiana in anticipation of an indictment that was returned by a Federal Grand Jury in November, 1987. The indictment ran 136 pages and contained 53 counts variously charging 34 people. Paul and Richard were specifically charged with running a massive marijuana smuggling and distribution operation, legally termed a “Continuing Criminal Enterprise” (CCE). According to the indictment the ring operated from 1975 to 1985. It distributed more than 150,000 lbs. and took in more than $50 million in cash. The figures were subsequently revised upward to 250,000 lbs. and $50 to $100 million. It would prove to be the biggest marijuana ring ever prosecuted by the US.

Paul Heilbrunn was characterized as the ring leader of the enterprise. Testimony later depicted him as both respected and feared. He was referred to as “Melech,” Hebrew for king. Although Paul was a high school dropout, he was by all accounts a brilliant businessman. Prior to the indictment, he was believed to be a successful commodities trader in Indianapolis and wrote a column on trading for the local newspaper. He was a bon vivant who favored three-piece suits, frequented the finest restaurants and drove a top of the line BMW. He on several occasions rented jets and flew his friends to such events as the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball finals.

His older brother, Richard, on the other hand was described as a big Teddy bear. He lived on a farm and usually wore flannel shirts and jeans. Richard supervised operations while Paul was the CEO.

Their mother, Linda Leary, was twice married and divorced. She had kept the name of her second husband. Leary was prominent in the Indianapolis community. She was the head of the Indiana League of Women Voters and president of the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Leary was also involved in her sons’ business ventures. An early venture was dubbed Heilbrunn and Friends, ostensibly it was a health food distribution business -a good front for marijuana distribution. The “friends” were high school buddies who had setup marijuana sales networks at colleges they attended. But soon the network was supplying customers outside the campuses in eleven Midwestern states. Most of the marijuana came by ship from Columbia, Jamaica and Thailand – an exotic global operation. It was then trucked to Indiana where it was stored in barns that were owned or rented by the Heilbrunn organization.

Paul Heilbrunn had structured the organization so that information stovepiped, that is, information moved up and down, but only flowed between members as was necessary. This limited what any member could divulge should they choose to cooperate with law enforcement.

Paul also had attorneys set up offshore corporations in the Bahamas and Panama to launder the proceeds from the marijuana operation. Linda Leary was designated as the head of several of these corporations. Much of the laundered money was transferred back into the US and used to fund loans often for Indiana businesses.

In the present the paradigm has changed – now with so many states legalizing marijuana, it’s almost like looking back on prohibition. The Heilbrunns and their cohorts weren’t protesting the illegality of marijuana. Rather like the bootleggers, they were taking advantage of a restricted market. They could set the price, had little competition and the profits were tax free.

The Beginning of the End of The Empire

The beginning of the end for the Heilbrunn empire occurred when in 1983 a cocaine dealer was arrested. The dealer had previously worked for the Heilbrunns, but had been let go for drug use. He offered to tell what he knew about the Heilbrunn operation as part of plea bargain. There is no honor among thieves and little to none among drug dealers.

After the arrest of the cocaine dealer, law enforcement meticulously put together a case against the Heilbrunn organization which culminated in the 1987 federal indictment. Most of the 34 people charged were known to the federal grand jury that returned the indictment with the notable exception of one indictee who was referred to as “John Doe, also known as the Joker” like Batman’s nemesis. There were also two female subordinates to the Joker – named as Jane Does, aka, “Tipper and Topper.” (This probably was a disappointment to comic book purists who were anticipating a female code name like Catwoman.)

While the Heilbrunns were fighting extradition, most of the indictees were prosecuted and convicted. Some cooperated and agreed to testify against others including the Heilbrunns. In one of the co-conspirator’s trial, there was testimony about the Joker. He was depicted as “Paul Heilbrunn’s trusted and valued peer,” whose Michigan based operation did business with Heilbrunn and his associates. But no one in the Heilbrunn organization other than Paul himself seemed to know Joker’s true identity.

One person in the Joker’s organization had been identified and prosecuted for having stored a 40,000 lb. load purchased by the Joker from Heilbrunn. That person was James Shedd who owned a barn in Ypsilanti Twp. just southeast of Ann Arbor where the load was stored. (Shedd had also previously been the manager of the Sidetrack Bar, a locally famous and historical place in Ypsilanti.) Shedd had refused a plea deal and would not identify the Joker. That stand may have been based more on compensation from the Joker than honor.

It became a personal challenge for me to identify the Joker. It was a matter of pride. The Joker was a huge marijuana dealer who had been operating in my territory with impunity.

There was an individual who had become disenchanted with the Joker’s enterprise and reportedly had a falling out. I decided to see what if anything I could learn from him that might identify the Joker.

Over the next several months, we periodically met for coffee. We talked about a lot of things: sports, politics and although nothing specific was discussed, drugs. Slowly I gained his trust. I explained to him I would never disclose his identity, and any information he provided would be reported in such a way as to not divulge his identity. At no time did he ask me about any payment for information nor did I offer him any compensation. We both understood if he were to provide information, it would be because it was the right thing to do.

We began to discuss some specific things regarding marijuana distribution in Michigan. In early 1989, I asked him if he could help me identify the Joker. His reply was, yes, he could help – he could tell me who the Joker was – he was James Hill.

I immediately began to investigate James Hill. I found that James F. Hill owned a house in an affluent part of Ann Arbor. He also owned a business in Ann Arbor, an ice cream shop on Main Street, “The Lovin’ Spoonful.” And he owned and lived on an 80-acre farm just west of Ann Arbor. Hill had a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. Hill had no criminal record except he had been arrested for a traffic violation in 1973. It was nothing serious, but there was an arrest photo.

I sent a copy of the photo to Indianapolis, and after seeing the photo several of cooperating witnesses identified James Hill as the person they knew as the Joker.

The FBI Ann Arbor Office

Indianapolis obtained an arrest warrant for Hill, aka, the Joker. Early the next morning we set up an arrest team at Hill’s farm. When he was observed leaving the farm, we arrested him and took him to the Ann Arbor FBI office. I explained to Hill that he had been identified as the Joker in a federal indictment from Indiana charging him with multiple drug trafficking violations, and he would be taken to Detroit to be arraigned. He would likely remain in custody until he was transported to Indianapolis. He didn’t really question anything and seemed to have expected to be arrested. He indicated he would be cooperative, but he didn’t want to be interviewed until he got to Indianapolis.

When the media learned of Hill/the Joker’s arrest at the arraignment, they wanted to know how he had been identified. Rather than say nothing and encourage speculation, I made a statement that one of the cooperating witnesses in Indiana had identified him which was partially true.

Hill was removed to Indiana and did cooperate. Tipper and Topper were identified as sisters, Jennifer and Patricia Hanlon of Ann Arbor. They later pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to six years.

In late 1989, the Heilbrunns lost their two-year fight against extradition and were returned to the US.

In  October 1990, Hill pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the Heilbrunns. In his plea agreement, Hill admitted to having received several 1,200 to 2,000 lb. shipments of marijuana starting in 1976. Then between March and November 1985, Hill received marijuana shipments of 18,000 lbs., 20,000 lbs., 40,000 lbs. and a pair of 2,000 lb. loads from the Heilbrunn organization. Hill said he made his last payment to Heilbrunn in 1986. By then he had paid the Heilbrunn organization about $20 million for more than 100,000 lbs. marijuana.

James Hill was sentenced to 20 years. Because he had pleaded to having run a Continuing Criminal Enterprise all of his assets were subject to forfeiture. The US District Court Judge said that Hill would have received harsher punishment if not for his cooperation.

In January 1991, Linda Leary also pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against her sons. She was subsequently sentenced to nine years.

There was no trial of the Heilbrunns. Paul and Richard pleaded guilty in April, and in July 1991, they were sentenced. Richard got 13 years. Paul, the King, who had also pleaded to CCE, received 28 years. Thus, ended the Heilbrunn empire.

To my knowledge no one ever learned the identity of the source who identified the Joker.

 

 


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