Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Report: FBI broke internal rules for Keystone XL protesters

The FBI has broken internal rules in investigating activists opposed to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, according to a report.

The Houston field office investigated Keystone protesters between 2012 and 2014, but did not get necessary approval from office attorneys, as is required by protocol for probes involving controversial political matters, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

Documents obtained by the Guardian through public records requests also show details about how the FBI dealt with Keystone opponents. The files emphasize the benefits of the proposed pipeline and refer to its opponents as “environmental extremists.”
FBI agents gathered inside information about upcoming protests, recording identities of people photographing oil infrastructure and established at least one confidential informant with intimate knowledge of protesters’ plans.

They focused on Tar Sands Blockade, an activist group focused in the Houston area, where Keystone XL is planned to end, bringing oil sands from Canada through the middle of the United States.

The actions were, at least initially, in “substantial non-compliance” with rules on controversial political matters, the FBI admitted to the Guardian.

Ron Seifert, an organizer for the group, told the Guardian multiple activists had been arrested, but none were accused of violent crimes or property destruction.

The FBI defended its actions to the Guardian and said that it worked quickly to get the necessary approvals and report the non-compliance to the correct authorities.

It said it was compelled to “take the initiative to secure and protect activities and entities which may be targeted for terrorism or espionage.”

Source:  http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/241710-fbi-broke-internal-rules-for-keystone-xl-protesters


Friday, May 1, 2015

Ex-FBI agent accused of lying for Bulger

Former FBI agent Robert Fitzpatrick has long cast himself as a whistle-blower who urged superiors to drop James “Whitey” Bulger as an informant in the 1980s, only to be ignored as corrupt agents protected the murderous gangster.

It’s a portrayal he offered while testifying for the families of Bulger’s victims in wrongful death suits against the government, during court hearings delving into FBI corruption, in a book about his life, and as a defense witness at Bulger’s 2013 racketeering trial.

In a stunning development Thursday in the never-ending Bulger saga, the 75-year-old Fitzpatrick was recast as a villain as prosecutors unsealed a 12-count indictment accusing him of perjury and obstruction of justice while misleading jurors in an effort to bolster Bulger’s defense.

More:  http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/04/30/former-fbi-agent-indicted-for-perjury-obstruction-justice-whitey-bulger-trial/wAnCrRwJKlWz6aM4MPdh1M/story.html

Monday, April 20, 2015

FBI Informant Exposes Sting Operation Targeting Innocent Americans in New "(T)ERROR" Documentary


We spend the hour with an explosive new film that shines a bright light on the FBI's shadowy use of informants in its counterterrorism sting operations. These undercover operatives are meant to root out would-be terrorists before they attack. Since 9/11, they have been used to prosecute at least 158 people. But critics argue they often target the wrong people, "including those with intellectual and mental disabilities, and the indigent." "(T)ERROR" goes inside the world of a particular informant who has played a key role in several major terrorism cases. It does so while he is in the middle of carrying out his latest sting operation. It came together when two independent filmmakers gained unprecedented access to follow Saeed Torres, whose undercover name is "Shariff," a 63-year-old former black revolutionary turned FBI informant, as he monitors a white Muslim convert named Khalifah al-Akili. Torres knew one of the directors, Lyric Cabral, and after he came out to her as an informant, he agreed to share his story, without informing his superiors. As the film unfolds, al-Akili begins to post on his Facebook page that he suspects the FBI is targeting him. The filmmakers used this an opportunity to approach him, and soon find themselves interviewing him at the same time they are also documenting "Shariff" monitoring him. During this time each man remains unaware that the filmmakers are talking to the other one. We get the rest of the story when we are joined by the filmmakers who co-directed "(T)ERROR," Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe, and play part of an interview with al-Akili from federal prison. Al-Akili was arrested just days after he emailed civil rights groups to say he believed he was the target of an FBI "entrapment" sting. He is now serving eight years in federal prison for illegally possessing a gun after having previous felony convictions for selling drugs. We are also joined by Steve Downs, executive director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms. He works with Project SALAM, which published a report last year called "Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution." He is also representing imprisoned Pakistani scientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. We are also joined by Marlene, the mother of Tarik Shah, who was arrested in 2005 after a joint FBI/NYPD sting operation that also involved Saeed "Shariff" Torres. She details in the film how Shah thought Shariff was his close friend, but he was actually an FBI informant.


FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.

More:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/fbi-overstated-forensic-hair-matches-in-nearly-all-criminal-trials-for-decades/2015/04/18/39c8d8c6-e515-11e4-b510-962fcfabc310_story.html

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Former FBI Special Agent Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Bribery And Obstruction Scheme

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Monday, March 30, 2015
Former FBI Special Agent Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Bribery And Obstruction Scheme
Co-Conspirators Sentenced to 24 Months and 13 Months in Prison for Their Roles
A former FBI special agent was sentenced today to 10 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $70,000 for soliciting and accepting bribes to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation into an alleged kickback scheme involving a defense contractor, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Carlie Christensen of the District of Utah and Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.
“FBI agents—like all federal law enforcement—must be above reproach, but former Special Agent Lustyik sold his badge and position of public trust to the highest bidder,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “This sentence serves as a stark reminder that no one is above the law.  Corrupt officials who break the law and breach their oaths will be prosecuted and sent to prison, even if they come from within the ranks of federal law enforcement.”

“These three defendants attempted to thwart a significant criminal investigation in Utah,” said U.S. Attorney Christensen.  “Two of these defendants were entrusted with protecting our citizens and upholding the law.  Their conduct, in particular, stands in stark contrast to the integrity and sacrifice of the men and women in our military and law enforcement ranks and their sentences today send a powerful message that no one is above the law.”

“Today’s sentencings represent important steps toward justice in this case,” said Inspector General Horowitz.  “Department of Justice employees and their associates must be held accountable when they abuse their authority and betray the public’s trust.”

Robert G. Lustyik Jr., 52, of Sleepy Hollow, New York, a 24-year veteran of the FBI, pleaded guilty to all charges in an 11-count indictment on Sept. 29, 2014.  Specifically, Lustyik pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and obstruction, eight counts of honest services wire fraud, obstruction of a grand jury investigation and obstruction of an agency proceeding.

Lustyik’s co-defendants, Michael L. Taylor, 54, of Harvard, Massachusetts, and Johannes W. Thaler, 51, of New Fairfield, Connecticut, were also sentenced today to 24 months in prison and 13 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in this scheme.  Thaler was also ordered to forfeit $70,000, joint and several with Lustyik.  U.S. District Senior Judge Tena Campbell of the District of Utah imposed all three sentences.

Lustyik and Thaler both pleaded guilty for their involvement in a similar bribery scheme in the Southern District of New York.  Thaler was sentenced to 30 months in prison in that case, and will serve the two sentences consecutively.  Lustyik is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30, 2015, in the Southern District of New York.

According to court documents, from October 2011 to September 2012, Lustyik and Thaler conspired to use Lustyik’s official position as an FBI counterintelligence special agent to obstruct a criminal investigation into Taylor, a businessman who owned and operated American International Security Corporation.  Taylor was under investigation for allegedly paying kickbacks to obtain a series of contracts from the Department of Defense worth approximately $54 million.  Taylor promised Lustyik and Thaler that, in exchange for their help, he would provide them cash and multimillion dollar business contracts.  In an email message, Taylor told the two men, “I’ll make you guys more money than you can believe, provided they don’t think I’m a bad guy and put me in jail.”

According to court documents, Lustyik attempted to obstruct the investigation into Taylor by identifying Taylor as an official FBI confidential source in an effort to persuade the FBI, the Justice Department and the prosecutors and law enforcement agents in Utah that Taylor’s usefulness to the government outweighed the government’s interest in prosecuting him.  Indeed, Lustyik emphasized that indicting Taylor would threaten the nation’s security.  Lustyik also sought to take steps to directly intervene in the investigation by interviewing key witnesses.

According to court documents, the defendants boasted about the success of their scheme.  In one email message, Lustyik wrote to Taylor, “The rate this is going.  I will be indicted way before u ever are !!”  Lustyik wrote separately to Thaler, “I can leave [the FBI] in June.  But I’m afraid to if [Taylor] gets indicted n I’m not an agent I’m no help.  Has he mentioned giving me‐u a salary?”

Taylor admitted at his plea hearing that, as part of this conspiracy, he offered Lustyik a six-figure salary and a share of the proceeds from various multi-million dollar business deals he was pursuing.  Acknowledging this, Lustyik wrote to Taylor, “Let’s just get Utah over with and get stinking rich,” to which Taylor replied, “Getting stinking rick [sic], we are well on the way with that so I have the ball.”

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General.  The case was prosecuted by Deputy Chief Peter Koski and Trial Attorney Maria Lerner of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Trial Attorney Ann Marie Blaylock of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.  Trial Attorney Scott Ferber of the National Security Division’s Counterespionage Section also assisted in the prosecution.
Updated March 30, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Former FBI Agent Charged with Obstructing Justice, Falsifying Records and Possessing Heroin

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

Friday, March 20, 2015
Former FBI Agent Charged with Obstructing Justice, Falsifying Records and Possessing Heroin
A Maryland man was charged today in the District of Columbia with crimes arising out of his tampering with substantial quantities of drug evidence while working as a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  The 64-count information charges Matthew Lowry with 20 counts of obstruction of justice, 18 counts of falsification of records, 13 counts of conversion of property, and 13 counts of possession of heroin.

Matthew Lowry, 33, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, was assigned to the Washington, D.C. Field Office (WFO), and was a member of the Cross-Border Task Force (CBTF).  As a member of the CBTF, the defendant participated in several large-scale investigations that resulted in numerous seizures of significant quantities of narcotics, including heroin. According to the information, in 2013 and 2014, the defendant tampered with heroin evidence seized during several of his investigations.  As those investigations occurred within the District of Columbia and the districts surrounding it, those offices have been recused by the Department of Justice, and the prosecution is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

In several instances, it is alleged that the defendant went to the WFO’s Evidence Control Center (ECC) and removed seized heroin from evidence, writing on a chain of custody record a false explanation for his taking of the evidence.  The information alleges that over a period of several weeks or months, the defendant kept the heroin in his car and periodically ingested it.  Before returning the heroin to the ECC or bringing it to a laboratory for testing, the defendant allegedly added to the heroin a measured amount of a cutting agent, either the supplement Creatine or the laxative Purelax, in order to account for the weight discrepancy resulting from his illegal usage; placed the altered heroin into a new evidence bag, on which he placed a new sticker signifying that the evidence bag had been sealed; copied the content written on the original sealing sticker to the new sealing sticker, forging the names or signatures of FBI agents who purportedly witnessed his sealing of the evidence; peeled off a barcode sticker from the original evidence bag and applied it to the new bag; and disposed of the original evidence bag and sealing sticker.

The defendant also participated in many undercover, controlled purchases of heroin from targets in his investigations.  Following several of these transactions, the defendant, rather than check the heroin into evidence as required, is alleged to have kept the heroin in his car for a period of several weeks or months, during which he periodically ingested it.  Before checking the heroin into the ECC, it is alleged that the defendant added a cutting agent to account for the weight discrepancy resulting from his ingesting the heroin; placed sealing stickers on evidence bags and filled out all requested information except for the seizure and sealing dates, which he left blank; requested that another agent, who had no knowledge of the defendant’s improper motives, sign as the witnessing official the undated sealing stickers; and wrote on the sealing stickers the accurate date on which the drugs were seized but falsely indicated that the evidence was sealed that same day.

Additionally, on one occasion, the defendant participated in an undercover, controlled purchase of heroin from a target, and in lieu of turning the heroin into evidence and documenting its seizure, the defendant allegedly ingested the heroin and never turned it into evidence.

The FBI referred this matter to the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG), which initiated the investigation.  The investigation has not identified any criminal conduct by other agents.

If convicted, the defendant faces at least 87 months in prison under the advisory guideline range calculated by the government, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $16 million, and a $6,400 special assessment.

The case was investigated by the DOJ-OIG, with assistance from the FBI as requested by the DOJ-OIG.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin R. Brenner and Maureen McCartney.

An information is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Lowry Information
Updated March 20, 2015

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ex-FBI agent Connolly wants murder conviction overturned

Lawyers for former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. are urging Florida’s highest court to force an appeals court to make a final decision on whether Connolly’s conviction for a 1982 slaying orchestrated by gangster James “Whitey” Bulger should be overturned.
Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals ruled in May that Connolly’s 2008 conviction for the slaying of a Boston businessman decades ago should be overturned on statute of limitations grounds, but the former agent remains behind bars while the court weighs a request by prosecutors for a rehearing.

Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Manuel Alvarez wrote in a petition to the Florida Supreme Court filed earlier this month that there were “no reasonable grounds” to justify a rehearing in Connolly’s case and that the 74-year-old has already spent six years behind bars for a conviction that was reversed five months ago.
“Yet, despite having prevailed on appeal, Mr. Connolly remains incarcerated on a time-barred conviction as this cause languishes, once again, in rehearing limbo,” Alvarez wrote.
However, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, whose office prosecuted Connolly, said prosecutors believe Connolly’s murder conviction should be reinstated and that the appeals court was treating the case “with the seriousness it deserves.”

“They are being very deliberate,” Rundle said. “A just result is much more important than a speedy decision.”
Connolly was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2009 for his role in the 1982 slaying of John B. Callahan, a Boston businessman who fraternized with members of Bulger’s gang. Connolly grew up in the same South Boston housing development as Bulger and recruited the gangster as an informant in 1975, according to FBI files and testimony.
After an eight-week trial in 2008, a Florida jury found Connolly guilty of second-degree murder with a gun for leaking information to Bulger and his sidekick Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, that prompted the gangsters to order Callahan’s death.
Flemmi testified at the trial that Connolly warned him and Bulger that the FBI was seeking Callahan for questioning and the businessman would probably implicate the gangsters in the 1981 slaying of World Jai Alai owner Roger Wheeler.
It was undisputed that Bulger’s associate John Martorano lured Callahan to Florida and shot him to death, while Connolly was miles away on Cape Cod.
Connolly began serving his sentence for Callahan’s murder after he finished serving a 10-year prison term for an earlier federal racketeering conviction in Boston.