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Tag: wiretapping

Book Excerpt: ‘Hollywood Confidential: A True Story of Wiretapping, Friendship, and Betrayal’

A specialist on organized-crime investigations since 1974, best-selling author and independent investigative journalist Dan E. Moldea has published seven nonfiction books including, “The Hoffa Wars: Teamsters, Rebels, Politicians and the Mob.” This excerpt is being published with permission.

CHAPTER ONE

“Forget it, Dan. It’s Chinatown”

By Dan E. Moldea

I didn’t see the minefield ahead.

On April 12, 2002, Anita Busch sent an email, asking me for a favor. She wanted me to collect three articles that Bernard Weinraub of the New York Times had written about one-time Hollywood super-agent Michael Ovitz, two from 1996 and the third from 1999. She provided no explanation, and I didn’t need any. I just did what she asked. Later that day, I sent Anita two of the three articles that she had requested, along with six other stories in which Weinraub had discussed Ovitz. At the time of her email to me, Anita was freelancing for the New York Times. She and Weinraub were in the midst of what would become a seven-part series which began on March 22 about Ovitz and his latest business venture, the Artists Management Group, a broadly based management company for those involved in film and television productions. The two reporters alleged that Ovitz had engaged in financial mismanagement, based on a recent audit of the company’s records.

The final part of their series appeared in the newspaper on May 7.1 The day before that final installation, Anita and Weinraub published a story about Ovitz, “A Faded Hollywood Power Broker Relinquishes His Talent Business,” which seemingly added insult to injury: Even by the turbulent and often cruel standards of Hollywood, Mr. Ovitz’s downfall has been startling. As a founder of the Creative Artists Agency, he emerged as a strong-willed and intimidating figure who sought to inspire fear, and succeeded. But Mr. Ovitz, who is 55, has seen his career fall into a downward spiral since 1997 when he was fired as president of the Walt Disney Company.

Today, Mr. Ovitz reached one of the lowest points in his career. He agreed for a company called The Firm to acquire the major units of his current company, the Artists Management Group. . . . For Mr. Ovitz, the deal is a serious financial and personal blow. 2 In lieu of continuing to freelance for the New York Times and other publications upon the completion of her work on Ovitz, Anita accepted a job on or about May 21, working under contract for the Los Angeles Times. On June 3, her first day with the newspaper, Hollywood legend Lew Wasserman, the retired chairman of MCA, died. As part of her research, she called me to discuss my third book, Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob, in which Wasserman was a major character. In that 1986 work, I concentrated on MCA, a powerful Hollywood corporation, and its fiftyyear relationship with President Reagan who was in the midst of his second term in office.

During the next two years, I watched the Reagan Justice Department, specifically the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, kill a federal investigation of MCA, as well as another broader probe of the Mafia’s penetration of the motion-picture industry. With life imitating art, these cases were embodiments of the dramatic conclusion of the 1974 film, Chinatown, in which wealthy powerbrokers used their influence with the law-enforcement community to evade responsibility for their roles in major crimes. In fact, one federal prosecutor placed a fine point on this analogy when—after hearing of my frustrations with reporting on the aborted MCA case—he told me, “Forget it, Dan. It’s Chinatown.” The newspaper’s obituary of Wasserman the following day referred to my work.

Dan Moldea (Photo credit: E. Ethelbert Miller)

On June 4, federal prosecutors indicted Julius “Jules” Nasso, along with sixteen reputed members of New York’s Carlo Gambino crime family as part of a major 68-count conspiracy case.

Nasso had been the business partner of motion-picture star Steven Seagal, whose popular action-adventure films included Above the Law, Out for Justice, and Under Siege. In effect, Anita, who usually covered show business, was now investigating the Mafia. Her partner for this investigation was Paul Lieberman, a respected veteran investigative reporter who worked in the New York bureau of the Los Angeles Times. The first Busch-Lieberman story appeared on June 5, stating: Nasso, 49, of Staten Island, was charged with two counts, conspiracy to commit extortion and attempted extortion of a figure in the motion picture industry.

Although prosecutors did not identify the extortion target in the indictment, Nasso’s lawyer said after court that Seagal is the film figure. “It’s definitely Steven Seagal,” said Nasso’s lead attorney, Barry Levin. “Steven Seagal has been seen talking to the grand jury.” Nasso had a 15-year business relationship with Seagal until a bitter falling-out. In March, Nasso filed a $60-million lawsuit against the actor, alleging the star of such films as Under Siege had backed out of a contract to perform in four movies. The two have not spoken in more than a year.”

In her follow-up article the next day, Anita, without the participation of Lieberman, wrote: “The alleged extortion attempt was caught on FBI wiretaps. The wiretaps recorded a conversation between Nasso and Gambino associate Anthony ‘Sonny’ Ciccone in which Ciccone 3 allegedly chastised Nasso for trying to share some of the extorted money with others without ‘prior approval.’”

Anita and Lieberman co-authored a third story on June 12, adding: “The Mafia captain who rules the Staten Island waterfront threatened to kill an entertainment figure, identified previously as actor Steven Seagal, as part of a multimillion-dollar extortion scene. . . . “Anthony ‘Sonny’ Ciccone ‘demanded millions of dollars from this individual and threatened his life,’ Assistant U.S. Atty. Andrew Genser said at a court hearing for the accused Gambino family docks boss.”6 However, Anita did not appear to trust her partner. In her personal notes, she wrote: I am sharing information with the reporter I’m working with, Paul Lieberman. But something doesn’t smell right. Lieberman is too close to these guys, I believe. He’s going out drinking with them.

Read more »

Trump Doubles Down on Wiretapping Claims Even As Republicans Express Doubt

Trump Tower

Trump Tower

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Although President Trump has provided no evidence that the Obama administration wiretapped his offices during the 2016 presidential campaign, he insisted again Wednesday that the claims are true.

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify before a congressional panel to discuss what evidence, if any, has been found to back up Trump’s claims.

“Wiretap covers a lot of different things,” Trump told Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson last night.

But even Republicans are getting frustrated with the unfounded claims, and leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that they have found no evidence to confirm President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the election.

“We don’t have any evidence that that took place,” said U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “In fact, I don’t believe — in the last week … people we’ve talked to — I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” the Boston Herald reports

Fake News Sites Perpetuate Myth That Obama Tapped Trump’s Phones

president obama state of unionBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s claims that Obama wiretapped the Republican’s phones during the presidential “have proven to be a petri dish for fake news,” Politifact has found

Multiple fake news sites have posted stories alleging that the FBI has a warrant to arrest Obama for wiretapping Trump’s phones.

“FBI issues Warrant For Obama’s Arrest After Confirming Illegal Trump Tower Wiretap,” read the headlines on multiple fake news sites.

Politifact concluded: “These stories don’t have a grain of truth. There’s no warrant out for Obama’s arrest, and he’s definitely not getting arrested by the FBI. We’ve also found no evidence to support Trump’s claim that the wiretapping even took place.”

Fake news has contributed to confusion, resentment and anger among people who have trouble discerning real news from fictional news.

Justice Department Requests More Time on Wiretapping Evidence

US CapitolBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department said it needs more time to provide information on President Trump’s wiretapping claims.

The House Intelligence Committee has asked for wiretapping applications, orders and warrants involving President Trump or his associates.

The Justice Department called the committee “to ask for additional time to review the request in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what if any responsive documents may exist,” the Washington Post reports. 

The committee wants the records by Monday’s deadline.

President Trump has yet to provide a shred of evidence that Obama ordered wiretapping of the Trump campaign.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer walked back some of the claims.

“If you look at the president’s tweet, he said very clearly, quote, ‘wire tapping’ — in quotes,” Spicer said, gesturing with his fingers to symbolize quotes. “There’s been substantial discussion in several reports. ... There’s been reports in the New York Times and the BBC and other outlets about other aspects of surveillance that have occurred. The president was very clear in his tweet that it was, you know, ‘wiretapping’ — that spans a whole host of surveillance types of options.”

Senators Request Information on Trump’s Claims of Wiretapping Ordered by Obama

Trump Tower

Trump Tower

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Senators from both sides of the aisle want the Justice Department and FBI to release any information about Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that President Obama had wiretapped phones at Trump Tower during the presidential election.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., sent a formal request for information on any action taken to tap Trump’s phones at his New York home and offices, ABC News reports. 

“Congress must get to the bottom of President Trump’s recent allegation that President Obama wiretapped President Trump’s phones during the 2016 election,” wrote Graham and Whitehouse in a letter to FBI director James Comey and Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente.

“As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, we would take any abuse of wiretapping authorities for political purposes very seriously,” the letter adds.

“We would be equally alarmed to learn that a court found enough evidence of criminal activity or contact with a foreign power to legally authorize a wiretap of President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or Trump Tower.”

On Saturday, Trump claimed on Twitter that President Obama had directed federal authorities to tap Trump’s phones.

FBI Tried to Stop Martin Luther King Jr. from Delivering College Commencement in 1964

stanford.edu photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Just days after Martin Luther King Jr. was invited to speak at Springfield College’s commencement in 1964, the FBI tried to get the school to cancel speech, the Atlantic reports in an account detailing new questionable tactics against the civil rights icon.

At the time, King had been the subject of extraordinary wiretapping at his home, office and hotel rooms where he stayed. Agents used those wiretaps to urge the college to cancel King’s commencement address.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was obsessed with discrediting King at the time.

In mid-June, King delivered his speech and spoke about segregation, pacifism and morality.

Did FBI Conduct Warrantless Wiretapping of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack?

Mayor Tony Mack

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI was listening to Trenton Mayor Tony Mack’s cell phone calls for nearly six months under the authority of a court.

But that authorization ended two days after agents raided Mack’s home last summer, the NJ.com reports.

Government records now suggest agents continued to tap Mack’s phone, raising major questions surrounding the handling of the probe of the mayor of New Jersey’s capital city.

NJ.com wrote that defense attorneys are likely to challenges any warrantless wiretappings.

“It will come out at the time of motions,” said Jerome Ballarotto, a lawyer for Mack’s co-defendant Joseph “JoJo” Giorgianni.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

DEA Has Unprecedented Access for AT&T Phone Records Dating Back to 1987

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

AT&T agreed to provide the DEA with real time access to an unprecedented amount of phone records as part of a recently revealed partnership, The Atlantic reports.

Since 2007, the DEA has had access to every call that goes through AT&T’s switchboard, The Atlantic wrote.

The phone company even provided four employees to help track down suspects.

The access includes phone numbers, time and duration of calls and where the calls were made dating back to 1987.

To put that into perspective, 4 billion call records accumulate every day, the New York Times wrote.