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The FBI Will Survive the Inspector General Report

Former FBI Director James Comey

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Dramatic headlines in the media may suggest otherwise, but truth be told, the long-awaited report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz contains few surprises.

Yes, we already knew ex-FBI Director James Comey stepped over the line at his press conference about not charging Hillary Clinton, and yes, we already knew he violated Department of Justice protocol by sending the infamous letter to Congress about reopening the email probe shortly before the election. And we already knew Comey thought his Boy Scout image trumped (no pun intended) the bigger picture: The presidential election. And we  knew that FBI agent Peter Strzok, a key investigator in the Clinton and Russian probes,  exchanged emails that were anti-Trump.

The 500-page report, an exhaustive one at that, includes damaging emails from Strzok that will give Trump plenty fodder for his late night twitter rants. Perhaps most damning is an email from Strzok in August 2016, shortly before the election. He wrote to an FBI lawyer, saying  “we’ll stop” Trump from making it to the White House.

Trump’s “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” the lawyer, Lisa Page, wrote to Strzok, who was romantically involved with.

“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok wrote.

Ok, there was some little surprises. The report found that Comey had used his personal email for such things as sending himself a draft of a speech. The report found the practice was inconsistent with with DOJ policy, and certainly, it’s ironic considering he blasted Hillary Clinton for using personal email at the State Department. Still, it should be noted that it doesn’t appear he used personal email for classified info.

The report found that there was no evidence of bias inside the FBI to rig the Clinton investigation, which should come as a disappointment to the president and his allies, who figured that was a certainty.

Institutions like the FBI survive these things. The FBI has had its share of troubles over the decades. Ditto for agencies like ATF. That agency   has survived such messes as Waco and Operation Fast and Furious.

To show resolve shortly after the report was released, FBI agent Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, issued a statement:

“FBI Special Agents put their lives on the line each and every day to protect the American public from national security and criminal threats.  The Inspector General’s (IG) report found no bias in the investigation.  It shows that Agents perform their duties with a focus on complying with the law and the Constitution.

“We support, as always, the Bureau reviewing and utilizing its policies and disciplinary processes to help ensure that we remain the world’s premier law enforcement organization.  We also reiterate that attacks on our character and demeaning comments about the FBI will not deter Agents from continuing to do what we have always done––dedicate our lives to protecting the American people.”

 It’s seldom good news when a federal law enforcement agency comes under such scrutiny. But ultimately it sends a positive message to the American people that no person or agency is beyond reproach.

In any event, this too shall pass.

Read the Full Report.

Rudy Giuliani’s Fear of a Perjury Trap is Pure Nonsense

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Former N.Y. Mayor and Rudy Giuliani, who served as U.S. Attorney from 1983-89, is going around telling everyone who will listen that he fears Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is trying to set a perjury trap for President Donald Trump.

“The reality is we’re not going to sit him down if it’s a trap for perjury,” Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, tells Fox News.  “And until we’re convinced of that … we’re just going to have to say no.”

“Let me emphasize,” Giuliani added, “he wants to explain that he did nothing wrong.”

Let’s simply say this: You can’t be guilty of perjury if you tell the truth.

The truth is that Trump has had a problem at times distinguishing between truth and alternative facts.

All the president has to do is tell the truth.

Simple as that.

Perjury is charge for people who lie.

The truth is a great defense against perjury.

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.

 

 

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.”

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.

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.”

Trump’s Remarks Point to A Bumpy Road for Jeff Sessions and Christopher Wray

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Heading up a major law enforcement agency like the Justice Department or FBI is never easy. It’s a major headache. There’s always a crisis around the corner.

Keeping your job and doing it with integrity has only been more challenging under the Trump administration. Don’t count on Jeff Sessions sticking around as Attorney General for all too long, and expect Christopher Wray to face endless ethical dilemmas dealing with President Donald Trump after his confirmation as FBI director.

The president’s remarks to the New York Times give a pretty clear indication of tumultuous times ahead for the two.

Trump tells  the paper that he would never have hired Sessions had he known he was going to recuse himself in the probe into Russia.

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump said.

Everyone, perhaps except Trump, realizes Sessions had no choice considering he was in the the inner circle of the Trump campaign in 2016, and he met with Russian officials. It was a no-brainer for Sessions, and frankly, had he not, he would have been under great pressure on the Hill and from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to recuse himself.

Then there’s the comment about the FBI director.

“The FBI person really reports to the president of the United States,” Trump said in what clearly is an untrue statement. Sure, the FBI director can brief the president on a regular basis, but he doesn’t answer to the president, at least not in the way Trump thinks.

The FBI’s website states, “Within the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI is responsible to the attorney general, and it reports its findings to U.S. Attorneys across the country. The FBI’s intelligence activities are overseen by the Director of National Intelligence.”

Trump won’t have a very hard time pushing Sessions out. That seems to be a certainty.

But considering he’s already fired one FBI director, Trump will have a tough time firing a second one without catching hell from Congress and the American people.

These are challenging and complicated times for law enforcement.

What isn’t complicated is doing the right thing and not bending to pressures from the White House.

President Nixon tried undermining the justice system, and we know justice prevailed.

President Donald Trump’s Early Influence on the Criminal Justice System and Law Enforcement

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

President Trump is a media magnet, for better or worse. Debates on public policy and personal peccadilloes whirl so fast that it seems fair to step back and try to ignore the daily sensations and make a preliminary assessment of his successes and failures in the law enforcement and criminal justice arenas.

Relations with Law Enforcement Agencies

Candidate and now President Trump often voices an intention of becoming a supporter and partner with police and federal agents. He vocally repeats the warnings from the War on Drugs contingent and openly chose their tenets over Black Lives Matter. He promises more support, financial, executive, and legislative, and he declares new policies and priorities.

The jury seems to still be out on whether these promises are going to be implemented but law enforcement seemed at least open-minded after their general ambivalence for Obama. But Trump’s “buddy” plan took a serious hit in the last few days when he abruptly fired the well respected head of the largest and most influential law agency in the nation, if not the world.

Last week Trump fired James Comey, the Director of the FBI. In the Bureau’s almost 100 year history this had occurred only twice previously:  President Richard Nixon fired the director while the nation was in the throes of Watergate, and President Bill Clinton fired William Sessions in 1993, shortly after Clinton took office.

Although Comey had drawn some criticism by his disclosures a few days before the election that the Bureau was re-opening and then re-closing the investigation on candidate Hillary Clinton, most thought that, however misguided, the comments were not intended to affect the election or have any other ill intent. Whether they did or did not doom her election hopes is another subject.

Contrary to Trump’s protestations, Comey was and continues to be highly regarded by other law enforcement agents, Congress, and the public at large. With the men and women of the FBI, the issue is personal.

It was also the way it was done, its peremptory quality, the prevarication and confusion among Trump, his staff and spokespersons. The Director found out he’d been terminated on a TV news program. It was the kind of Amateur Hour we have come to expect from this Administration.

Ironically ,Trump’s firing resulted in the disclosure of his meddling/obstruction of the investigation of fired National Security Coordinator Michel Flynn. Trump’s remarks to Comey about closing the Flynn investigation would probably never have seen the light of day absent the firing. Not the first time Trump stepped on an important part of his anatomy.

The flare-up of violent crime statistics, concern about increasing assaults on police, general ambivalence toward Obama policies—all of these factors provided an atmosphere in which President Trump could have cemented relations with law enforcement. But the Comey affair and Trump’s meddling in several other DOJ cases and policies seem to have made this a lost opportunity for him to build an alliance with law enforcement.

Supreme Court and the Judiciary

Another potentially positive area was in his judicial appointments. From a law enforcement perspective, if the measure of the value of Justices and judges is their tendency to rule for the government in criminal cases, then the selection of Justice Gorsuch to fill Justice’s Scalia’s seat was a big win for Trump.

But the win came at a price. The absence of a Justice for a year meant that the Court was stuck in third gear and could not resolve some important questions which have split the lower courts.

Then, too, the politicization of the selection process and the abandonment of the 60 vote rule in the Senate will impact the process negatively for decades. The emphasis on broad-based excellence has been de-emphasized a notch for a candidate’s predicted loyalty on a few hot-button issues. The fact that we appeared to have gotten a Justice of excellence and integrity in Justice Gorsuch does not entirely absolve the methods and intentions of the selection process.

Moreover, the general dysfunction of both Congress and the White house has, thus far, left hundreds of vacancies for new federal judges and U.S. Attorneys unfilled.

Finally, going back to the original rubric for judging success in this category, there is undoubtedly an undetermined segment of the law enforcement community and the population at large which holds that there is more to assessing success in choosing judges than their predictability for government-favored rulings. Excellence, independence, wisdom, legal acumen, and courage—have these attributes been de-valued by Trump and his architects for criminal justice?

Criminal Justice Reform

For the first time in several decades there appeared to be broad-based, bipartisan support for making progressive changes to the criminal justice system. From Senator Rand to Congressman John Conyers (a wide spectrum indeed), consensus was building toward reform.

Rep. John Conyers

Rep. John Conyers

But the President and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions are not only opposed to this movement, they apparently want to roll back policy to the get-tough rhetoric of two and three decades ago. AUSAs are directed to seek the most severe charges and sentences in drug and gun cases. Mandatory minimums are back in favor. Prosecutions of marijuana cases in recreational use states have been threatened.

It’s Nixon’s War on Drugs Redux. Even those of us who have consistently opposed marijuana legalizations shudder at the prospect now at sending DEA agents and AUSAs to put the genie back in the bottle.

Trump/Sessions DOJ has also done a 180 on civil rights investigations of local police departments, even to re-examining all existing consent decrees. Many police will welcome the end to what they consider to be obsessive micro-management from Washington. Others, however, found DOJ’s participation to serve as a pragmatic buffer between community groups and the police. Communities like Baltimore considered the decree to be the foundation for a strengthened department.

Trump’s description of a terrible crime wave gripping America paints a bleak picture, particularly in the cities. Some think this rhetoric denigrates the hard work by law enforcement which had resulted in a 42% decrease crime statistics. Still, most agree that violent crime, especially since 2015, continues to be a stubborn and dangerous problem, along with the opioid epidemic. A fresh approach and commitment would be a real achievement by President Trump. So far, however, we have seen only fear mongering and proposals like The Wall and widespread deportations.

The Law Enforcement Leaders, made up of over 200 police chiefs, have made five policy recommendations to the President and Attorney General:

1.    Focus on violent crime with DOJ’s priorities and resources.

2.    Reduce unnecessary time behind bars. Lock up the worst.

3.    More resources for mental health and drug treatment, which cannot be addressed successfully in jail.

4.    Build up Community Policing with local programs and information clearinghouses.

5.    Reduce recidivism by supporting prison education and treatment programs, residential re-entry centers, and home confinement for those nearing release.

President Trump seems inclined to support the first and part of the third proposals (opioid treatment). His present plan seems inconsistent with the second and fourth, although they would be worthwhile topics for the task force to reduce crime which he has created.

Law Enforcement Budgets

The quickest way to a law enforcement agency’s heart is through its wallet. Two months ago Trump announced that his first budget would include significant increases in law enforcement spending. That, of course, would be welcome news for agencies whose increased costs have not been met by increased budgets. Plus the Administration’s announced expanded expectations will be costly.

The problem is that any budget increases will be met by the pressure to cut spending to justify a tax reduction. So this is another one in the wait-and-see category.

Bureau of Prisons

President Obama cut the federal prison population by about 10% through an unprecedented use of his clemency power, reduced Sentencing Guidelines and legislative changes in sentencing. The result caused the prison overpopulation pressure to ease and almost ended the use of “private prisons.”

None of these policies seem at all likely in the Trump Administration, whose plans will fill the prisons up again and bring back budget and infrastructure concerns. Sessions’ direction for tougher charging and sentencing policies will accelerate this trend. Plus he has announced an intention to reverse Obama’s executive order to close private prisons.

All of this portends a significant increase in the BOP budget. Some, perhaps many, in law enforcement will applaud this result. However, the discovery by criminal justice “reformers” in Congress that these policies have a price tag may well put them in opposition to the President’s plan to lock more miscreants up.

So what’s the verdict on Trump’s early influence on the criminal justice system? Like the rest of his actions, it depends on the point of view of the listener. But, over all, it appears to be something which once held promise but seems to be trending downward. Beyond content and result is the method. There seems to be only limited thoughtful planning and consultation with career experts.

Like much of Trump’s policy pronouncements, it has a shoot-from-the-lip quality.

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This is my 100th column for Ticklethewire, a milestone of note only to writers who are “counters.” Whatever the future holds, I want to thank Allan Lengel for his help and indulgence, and to the readers who give me feedback, especially the ones who care enough to disagree.