Tom Diaz

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SPIES LIKE THEM? REALLY “INTELLIGENT” SPIES DOING REALLY DUMB THINGS — PART TWO

In bad manners, Corruption, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, undercover investigations on November 25, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Convicted Spies Walter Kendall Myers and His Wife Gwendolyn Lived the Good Life of the "Imperialist" Bureaucrat While Selling Out Their Country to Communist Cuba

Walter Kendall Myers spent 30 years as a traitor at high levels in the U.S. Department of State, spying for Cuba.  His wife, Gwendolyn, assisted him.  Both took guilty pleas last week and agreed to cooperate with the government.  Kendall was sentenced to life and Gwendolyn to six and a half to seven years in prison.

The Myers Met and Admired Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro, Whom Gwendolyn Called "The Most Incredible Statesman in a Hundred Years"

This is the second of a two part series quoting from relevant court documents in the Myers case.  In Part One, Fairly Civil described the Myers’s motivation and recruitment by the Cuban intelligence service.  This Part Two covers Kendall Myers’s access, the “trade craft” the Cuban spies used, and how the FBI investigation rolled them up [at least from the point of its contact with them.  There is no doubt a deeper trail, possibly ultimately connected to the Ana Belen Montes case and various cases in South Florida].

KENDALL MYERS’S EMPLOYMENT GAVE HIM ACCESS TO SENSITIVE CLASSIFIED INFORMATION

Kendall Myers held a number of jobs that gave him access over more than 30 years to sensitive classified information:

9. KENDALL MYERS was in the U.S. Army from January 1959 to March 1962, where he completed intensive communications training and served in the Army Security Agency.

11. From in or about August 1977, through in or about March 1979, KENDALL MYERS was employed as a contract instructor at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), a training and professional development institute for Department of State employees located in Arlington, Virginia. After living in South Dakota with GWENDOLYN MYERS from in or about 1979 until in or about 1980, KENDALL MYERS returned to Washington, D.C. In or about August 1982, KENDALL MYERS resumed employment as a contract instructor with FSI and held the title of Chairperson for West European Studies. On or about May 9, 1983, KENDALL MYERS applied for a non-contractor, two-year appointment as a Training Instructor and Chairperson for West European Studies at FSI. On or about April 15, 1985, KENDALL MYERS was offered a two-year appointment as a Training Instructor and subsequently, a second two-year appointment as an Education Specialist at FSI, all while serving in a chair capacity in Western European Area Studies. From at least August 1988 to October 1999, KENDALL MYERS, in addition to his FSI duties, performed work on a periodic basis for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).

12. Starting in approximately October 1999, KENDALL MYERS began working full time at INR as the Acting Director of the External Research Staff. From approximately July 2001 to October 31, 2007, KENDALL MYERS was a Senior Analyst for Europe for INR. INR is responsible for drawing on all-source intelligence to provide value-added independent analysis of events to policy makers at the U.S. Department of State. During his employment at INR in various capacities, KENDALL MYERS specialized in intelligence analysis regarding European matters. He also served as a Special Assistant for Analyst Training and Development during that time frame.

13. On October 31, 2007, KENDALL MYERS retired from the Department of State

KENDALL MYERS REPEATEDLY  VIEWED CLASSIFIED INFORMATION RELATED TO CUBA

67. During the April 30, 2009, meeting [with an FBI undercover agent], when the UCS asked KENDALL MYERS whether he had ever delivered information to CuIS that was classified more than SECRET, KENDALL MYERS responded “Oh yeah. . . Oh, yeah.” KENDALL MYERS stated that the “best way” to take information out from his job was “in your head.” KENDALL MYERS told the UCS that he removed information from the Department of State by memory or by taking notes. GWENDOLYN MYERS added that he kept his notes locked in his office safe.

68. An analysis of KENDALL MYERS’s classified Department of State work computer hard drive reveals that from August 22, 2006, until his retirement on October 31, 2007, KENDALL MYERS, while employed at INR, viewed in excess of 200 sensitive or classified intelligence reports concerning the subject of Cuba. Of these intelligence reports, more that 75 of these reports made no substantive mention of countries within KENDALL MYERS’s area of responsibility as an employee of INR. Of these reports concerning Cuba, the majority were classified and marked SECRET or TOP SECRET.

EXPLANATION OF TERMS RELATED TO THE MYERS’S “SPYCRAFT”

The affidavit explains a number of the terms that come up in its discussion of evidence about the Myers’s spying activity:

22. I have further learned based on my experience and training that CuIS employs “handlers” in the United States, i.e., persons who maintain some type of personal contact with agents located in the United States. Handlers receive reporting or information from agents, produce tradecraft and communication tools for agents, and sometimes direct and control agent activities based on instructions the handler has received from CuIS. Handlers could be “legals,” that is, persons with diplomatic immunity whose affiliation with Cuba is known. Also CuIS employs “illegals” as handlers, that is, persons whose affiliation to the Government of Cuba is not publicly disclosed, whose intelligence function is clandestine, and who possess no diplomatic immunity.

23. I have further learned based on my experience and training that a dead drop is a location used to pass items secretly between an agent and his or her handler, or between intelligence officers, without requiring them to meet. The location of the drop is agreed inadvance and it typically involves the use of common everyday items to which most people would not give a second glance such as a loose brick in a wall, a library book, a hole in a tree, under a boulder, etc.

24. I have further learned based on my experience and training that a brush pass, pass or hand-to-hand are terms used to mean a pre-arranged momentary encounter between an agent and his or her handler, or between intelligence officers, wherein written messages, instructions, or other items (e.g., a computer thumb drive or a brief case) are quickly and surreptitiously passed between them as they cross paths. Such encounters may occur in public such as on a busy street or on the subway.

25. I have further learned based on my experience and training that a personal contact, contact, or meet are terms used to mean a face-to-face contact between an agent and his or her handler wherein operational training and details can be discussed.

26. I have further learned based on my experience and training that a parole is a password or recognition phrase used between an agent and his or her handler, or between intelligence officers, to identify each other.

27. I have further learned based on my experience and training that CuIS sometimes employs husband and wife “paired” agents to achieve its intelligence goals in the United States. Such CuIS husband and wife “paired” agents were revealed in the investigation of the Miami network of CuIS agents in the case entitled United States v. Gerardo Hernandez, et al., Cr. No. 98-721-CR-Lenard, and of Carlos Alvarez and Elsa Alvarez in the case of United States v. Alvarez,  05-20943-CR-Moore, both arising in the Southern District of Florida.

28. I have further learned based on my experience and training that CuIS employs multiple code names for its agents to safeguard and protect their identities. CuIS also provides false identity and travel documents for its agents to facilitate clandestine travel and to facilitate flight from the United States in case of detection.

SHORT WAVE RADIO

The affidavit describes the use of shortwave radio as a hallmark of Cuban intelligence operations in the United States:

34. Based on my knowledge and familiarity with the communication methodologies of CuIS, I am aware that, during the time frame described herein, CuIS often communicated with its clandestine agents operating in the United States by broadcasting encrypted radio messages from Cuba on certain high frequencies – that is, shortwave radio frequencies. Under this method, CuIS would broadcast a series of numbers on a particular short-wave frequency. The clandestine agent in the United States, monitoring the frequency on a shortwave radio, could decode the seemingly random series of numbers by using a decryption program provided by CuIS. The series of numbers would then be decoded into cognizable text for use by the agent. Once decoded, the text of the message could provide the agent with tasking for intelligence gathering, instructions about operational activities, including communication plans and meets with CuIS handlers. Similarly, CuIS would broadcast similar messages to its handlers.

35. This shortwave radio communication method was employed by some of the defendants convicted of espionage on behalf of Cuba in the previously mentioned Hernandez case in the Southern District of Florida, as well as by Ana Belen Montes and Carlos and Elsa Alvarez.

36. I have further learned that CuIS broadcasts such encrypted shortwave radio messages in Morse Code or by a voice reading a series of numbers.

THE FBI’S INTERCEPTION OF SHORT WAVE MESSAGES AND THEIR LINKS TO THE MYERS

44. The FBI collects high frequency messages from CuIS in Cuba to Cuban officers and their agents abroad, to include illegal agents operating within the United States. Among other high frequency messages broadcast by CuIS that the FBI has collected, I am aware that the FBI has identified messages that it has determined were broadcast to a handler of KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS, hereinafter, co-conspirator “C.”

45. The messages sent to co-conspirator “C” contain many references to standard CuIS tradecraft, including mentions of passes, visual signals, personal contacts, dead drops, counter-surveillance techniques, danger signals, clandestine communication techniques and plans, coded messages, and code names referring to KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS.

46. Further, the message sent to co-conspirator “C” make multiple references to Cuba.

THE FBI UNDERCOVER OPERATION TAKES THE MYERS DOWN

39. On or about April 15, 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated an undercover operation. The purpose of the undercover operation was to convince KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS that they had been contacted by a bona fide Cuban intelligence officer and, in the course of their ensuing discussion and relationship, ascertain the scope, nature, and substance of KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS’s clandestine activities on behalf of CuIS.

40. During the afternoon of April 15, 2009, an undercover source of the FBI (“UCS”) approached KENDALL MYERS in front of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (“SAIS”) on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., in Washington, D.C. The UCS told KENDALL MYERS that a named CuIS intelligence officer (hereinafter co-conspirator “D”) “sent me to contact you.” The UCS continued that he did not want to “bother” KENDALL MYERS or take “too much” of his time, but that he had “instructions to contact” him and “to get some information . . . and [KENDALL MYERS’s] opinion” because of the “change that is taking place in Cuba and the new administration.” The UCS said that co-conspirator “D” sends “his regards,” offered KENDALL MYERS a cigar, and congratulated him on his birthday.  KENDALL MYERS agreed to meet the UCS later that evening at a nearby hotel, after KENDALL MYERS was done teaching a class at SAIS. KENDALL MYERS volunteered that his wife, GWENDOLYN MYERS, could join them. The UCS agreed.

EXCERPTS FROM THINGS THE MYERS SAID DURING THEIR MEETING WITH THE FBI UCS

• KENDALL MYERS stated that “it’s an honor for us” to meet the UCS. KENDALL MYERS further stated that “we’ve been a little nervous . . . and . . . I think you should tell them that . . . we’ve been nervous because, because we didn’t want to hurt them . . . We were worried . . . .”

• KENDALL MYERS refused the UCS’s offer of a drink of Scotch while he was answering questions in response to the UCS’s tasking of the previous day, noting, “no, no, that’s okay . . . while I work, you know.”

• GWENDOLYN MYERS recalled, and both her and KENDALL MYERS agreed to use in future meetings with the UCS, a parole (or pass phrase) that KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS had used previously.

• Near the conclusion of the meeting, KENDALL MYERS asked the UCS to “send special greetings . . . and hugs . . . to everybody . . . and to all of our friends.”

KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS then listed individuals they believe were located in Cuba, including “two very old friends,” co-conspirator “A” and co-conspirator “B.”

• KENDALL MYERS acknowledged working with CuIS for 30 years.

• KENDALL MYERS stated that CuIS asked him to work at either the Department of State or the Central Intelligence Agency. GWENDOLYN MYERS stated that they both preferred the Department of State because KENDALL MYERS is “not a very good liar.” KENDALL MYERS continued “you had to be a good liar to pass [the polygraph at CIA].”

• KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS agreed that the most secure way to transmit information to illegal agents was “hand-to-hand.” GWENDOLYN MYERS stated that this was because “you can always back off if you want. . . and the person we were meeting would understand.”

• KENDALL MYERS remarked that he “didn’t like dead drops . . . because you lose control of it.”

• GWENDOLYN MYERS further stated that her favorite way of passing information involved the changing of shopping carts in a grocery store because it was “easy enough to do.” She further stated that she “wouldn’t do it now. Now they have cameras, but they didn’t then.”

• KENDALL MYERS stated that his least favorite method for transmitting information “is that goddamn telephone system. . . . We wouldn’t do it.”  GWENDOLYN MYERS stated “we did it once, never again, we threw it away.”

• KENDALL MYERS further stated that he believed that the “telephone system” was responsible for Ana Montes’s detection and apprehension.

• KENDALL MYERS stated that the “best way” to take information out from his job was “in your head.”

• KENDALL MYERS told the UCS that he removed information from the Department of State by memory or by taking notes. GWENDOLYN MYERS added that he kept his notes locked in his office safe.

• KENDALL MYERS stated that “I was always pretty careful. I, I didn’t usually take documents out.”

• KENDALL MYERS stated that he and GWENDOLYN MYERS had bookends that were used as a concealment device at their home.

• In response to a question asking whether he had ever delivered information to CuIS that was classified more than SECRET, KENDALL MYERS replied “Oh, yeah. . . Oh, yeah.”

• KENDALL MYERS stated “I have great admiration for [Cuban spy] Ana Montes. She’s a hero. . . But she took too many chances. . . in my opinion. . . . She wasn’t paranoid enough.”

• KENDALL MYERS stated “Fidel is wonderful, just wonderful.” GWENDOLYN MYERS continued: “He’s . . . the most . . . incredible statesman in . . . a hundred years for goodness sakes.”

• GWENDOLYN MYERS informed the UCS that KENDALL MYERS would be a good teacher at a School of Intelligence in Cuba, adding, “so when can we come?” KENDALL MYERS agreed “that I could see doing. . . [t]hat I would like to do.”

SPIES LIKE THEM? REALLY “INTELLIGENT” SPIES DOING REALLY DUMB THINGS — PART ONE

In Corruption, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, undercover investigations on November 24, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Traitors: Walter Kendall Myers ("Agent 202") and Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers ("Agent 123" and "Agent E-634")

“When I heard they were arrested, I felt like they had arrested Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.”

Neighbor at marina where the Myers kept their 37-foot yacht.

We have also seen that espionage is not simply a relic of the Cold War. Earlier this year, a retired State Department employee and his wife were charged with engaging in a long running conspiracy with the Cuban intelligence service to furnish highly sensitive classified information through coded communications and clandestine meetings. Most recently, a scientist who had access to classified information relating to satellites and Department of Defense programs, was charged with attempted espionage after he gave some of that information to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign intelligence officer.

Written Testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two days after Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week about — among other things — the Justice Department’s vigilance in hunting down spies, the traitorous husband and wife team he mentioned in the above quote pleaded guilty before a federal judge in Washington.

Former State Department official Walter Kendall Myers copped to a life term in prison on a revised three-count criminal information.  His wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, will serve between six and seven and a half years in prison on a single count.

Court documents in the Myers case (and the more recent case of Stewart David Nozette, the DOD scientist Holder mentioned) describe a variety of methods used by the FBI to reel in suspected spies and would-be spies.  One method used in both cases:  send an undercover “source” to make contact with the suspects, turn on the recorders, and let the fish reel themselves in.

This two part series quotes from relevant court documents in the Myers case.  In this Part One, Fairly Civil describes the Myers’s motivation and recruitment by the Cuban intelligence service.  Part Two covers the “trade craft” the Cuban spies used, and how the investigation rolled them up.

THE MYERS’ IDEOLOGICAL MOTIVATION – CONTEMPT FOR “NORTH AMERICA”

The Myers are representative of a particularly reprehensible class – people who grow up in privileged status, become “intellectuals” contemptuous of the “imperialist” United States, betray their country … and yet continue not merely to enjoy, but to indulge themselves to excess in, its riches.   The Washington Post summarized Myer’s pedigree thusly (“A Slow Burn Becomes a Raging Fire: Disdain for U.S. Policies May Have Led to Alleged Spying for Cuba,” June 7, 2009.):

Myers, who goes by Kendall, grew up in Washington, the eldest of five children. His father, Walter, was a renowned heart surgeon; his mother, Carol, was the daughter of Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the longtime former president of the National Geographic Society, and was the granddaughter of inventor Alexander Graham Bell.

Myers went to prep school at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania and graduated from Brown University. He went on to get a doctorate in European history from the Johns Hopkins SAIS.

What did Kendall Myers glean from this patrician background and elitist education?

According to an affidavit filed in the case, one thing he said to the FBI undercover agent about the United States was that “the trouble with this country, there’s just too many North Americans.” He also told the agent regarding the possibility of travel restrictions to Cuba being lifted, “You don’t want all those Americans … believe me, those North Americans, you don’t want them.”

Here are more relevant passages of Kendall’s loathing from the affidavit, filed last June (“Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant,” United States v. Walter Kendall Myers, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Docket No. 1:09-cr-00150-RBW, filed June 4, 2009):

30 … The investigation has revealed a diary, written by KENDALL MYERS, of his 1978 trip to Cuba.  In his account of his trip, KENDALL MYERS expresses a strong affinity towards Cuba and its revolutionary goals, and a negative sentiment toward “American imperialism.”  Notably, KENDALL MYERS states:

Cuba is so exciting!  I have become so bitter these past few months.
 Watching the evening news is a radicalizing experience.  The abuses of our system, the lack of decent medical system, the oil companies and their
 undisguised indifference to public needs, the complacency about the poor, 
the utter inability of those who are oppressed to recognize their own 
condition. . . .  Have the Cubans given up their personal freedom to get
 material security?  Nothing I have seen yet suggests that  . . . . I can see nothing of value that has been lost by the revolution. . .

[T]he revolution has released enormous potential and liberated the Cuban spirit.
. . . .
Everything one hears about Fidel suggests that he is a brilliant and
 charismatic leader.  He exudes the sense of seriousness and
 purposefulness that gives the Cuban socialist system its unique character.
 The revolution is moral without being moralistic.  Fidel has lifted the 
Cuban people out of the degrading and oppressive conditions which
 characterized pre-revolutionary Cuba.  He has helped the Cubans to save
 their own souls.  He is certainly one of the great political leaders of our
 time. . .

Going through the [Museum of the Revolution in Havana] was a sobering 
experience.   Facing step by step the historic interventions of the U.S. in to [sic] Cuban affairs, including the systematic and regular murdering of
 revolutionary leaders left me with a lump in my throat. . . .

They don’t
 need to try very hard to make the point that we have been the exploiters. Batista was only one of the long list of murderous figures that we thrust upon them in the name of stability and freedom . . .

There may have been some abuses under the present regime, life may be more complicated by rationing, etc., but no one can make me believe that Cuba would have been better off if we have defeated the revolution.  The idea is obscene.

Cuban Spy and Castro Enthusiast Kendall Myers and His Wife Apparently Forced Themselves To Enjoy Life Aboard This Decadent Yacht -- A Product of the Imperialist Capitalist System They Effected to Deplore

Walter Kendall Myers’s ecstatic declaration that “no one can make me believe that Cuba would have been better off if we had defeated the revolution” falls precisely into the category of a certain type of (usually academic) intellectual willing to endure the suffering of other less-enlightened persons – without depriving themselves of the comforts of the parlor life.  Content that “life may be more complicated” under Fidel Castro’s communist regime, Walter Kendall Myers and his wife continued to roll like rich puppies in the American imperialistic good life.  “Communism may suck,” people like Kendall Myers pontificate to the impoverished subjects of the Cuban regime, “But that’s just a sacrifice you’ll have to make.  Wish we were there.”

For all the Myers’s intellectual posturing, among the items that they will forfeit to satisfy the $1,735,054 judgment against them – representing the salary paid to him over years by the State Department – is a 37-foot sailing yacht.  Sale prices for boats of equivalent length are currently listed in Maryland from the mid-thirty thousand dollars for older boats (1970s) to just south of $200,000 for newer models.  Such boats are simply another one of the luxuries that the people of Cuba will just have to do without in the Myers’s precious pseudo-Marxist world.

THE MYERS’ RECRUITMENT

Background on Cuban intelligence activities against the United States. The June affidavit describes in general terms the relevant background of Cuba’s intelligence operations against the United States:

20. … the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) is a general term encompassing numerous Cuban intelligence and counterintelligence entities.  A primary such entity is the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), formerly known as the Directorate of General Intelligence (DGI).  It is charged with gathering worldwide intelligence information of interest to Cuba and its allies.  The United States was, and continues to be, a principal target for Cuba’s intelligence gathering.

21.  … CuIS has a well-established program aimed at spotting and assessing persons within the United States academic community who may be suitable for recruitment to serve a variety of roles on behalf of Cuba’s interests.   The most important of these roles is that of agent – that is, a person who is not an officially recognized employee of CuIS but who is aware that he or she is working for the service and is willing to engage in clandestine operational activity, including intelligence gathering, at the direction, and on behalf, of  CuIS.   An agent-in-place is a recruited agent who occupies a position or job in which he or she has authorized access to intelligence information of value to CuIS, including classified information. One such agent was Ana Belen Montes, who was a senior intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency prior to her arrest and conviction for espionage on behalf of CuIS in March 2002 before this Court in the case of United States v. Ana Belen Montes.  (See a brief discussion of the Ana Belen Montes case in the Fairly Civil post here.)

Poor Housing Stock is One of the "Wonderful" Conditions Kendall Myers Was Happy for Cubans to Endure

Myers recruited after a 1978 trip to Cuba. Kendall Myers visited Cuba in 1978, during which trip Cuban intelligence apparently spotted him as an easy mark.  (It would be no surprise if one learned that the Cuban agency read Kendall’s diary, quoted above, while he was out touring, watching the socialist proletariat laboring according to its means in idyllic sugar cane fields.)  According to the affidavit:

29. … in December 1978, KENDALL MYERS traveled on “unofficial personal travel for academic purposes” to Cuba for approximately two weeks.  Two other Department of State employees traveled during the same time frame. KENDALL MYERS indicated in Department of State documents that his travel was predicated on an invitation from a Cuban government official (hereinafter, co-conspirator “A”) after co-conspirator “A” had given a presentation at the FSI. … co-conspirator “A” served at the Cuban Mission to the United States … in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  KENDALL MYERS’s guide in Cuba, was an official with Cuba’s Foreign Service Institute (hereinafter, co-conspirator “B”).   Based on all of the evidence collected during this investigation, I conclude that KENDALL MYERS’s trip to Cuba in 1978 provided the CuIS with the opportunity to assess and or develop KENDALL MYERS as a Cuban agent.

31. The FBI’s investigation has revealed that approximately six months after returning from Cuba, KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS were visited by co-conspirator“ A” in South Dakota, where KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS were living at the time. During that trip, KENDALL MYERS and GWENDOLYN MYERS were recruited by co-conspirator “A” and they agreed to serve as clandestine agents of the Republic of Cuba. Thereafter, CuIS directed KENDALL MYERS to pursue a job at either the Department of State or the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Myers’s “wonderful” soiree with Comandante Fidel. According to the criminal information (to the charges of which Kendall Myers pleaded guilty), “In or about January 1995 … [the Myers] … traveled to Cuba via Mexico under false names for the purpose of meeting with their … handlers. [W]hile staying in a small house in Cuba …[they] were visited by Fidel Castro.  Fidel Castro spent the evening with them and spoke through an interpreter.”  (“Violation,” United States v. Walter Kendall Myers, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Docket No. 1:09-cr-00150-RBW, filed Nov. 20, 2009.)

The June affidavit recounts what the Myers told the FBI undercover about that meeting:

43. … KENDALL MYERS stated that the “best one was meeting Fidel. . . Oh, that was wonderful.”

THE POTENTIAL DAMAGE

Gwendolyn Myers did not work for the government.  She took a job in a bank.  But, consistent with a known pattern of Cuban intelligence operating in the United States, she was an active member of the husband and wife spy team.

On the other hand, Kendall wormed his duplicitous way into high positions in the State Department where he had and used access to potentially extremely damaging information, including so-called “sources and methods” of intelligence gathering.

A U.S. Department of Justice Press Release (November 20, 2009) summarizes Kendall Myers’s career, beginning with the period shortly before he was recruited by the Cuban intelligence service:

Kendall Myers began working at the State Department in 1977 as a contract instructor at the Department’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington, Va. After living briefly with Gwendolyn in South Dakota, he returned to Washington, D.C., and resumed employment as an instructor with FSI. From 1988 to 1999, in addition to his FSI duties, he performed work for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). He later worked full-time at the INR and, from July 2001 until his retirement in October 2007, was a senior intelligence analyst for Europe in INR where he specialized on European matters and had daily access to classified information through computer databases and otherwise. He received a Top Secret security clearance in 1985 and, in 1999, his clearance was upgraded to Top Secret / SCI.

In Part Two of this post, Fairly Civil will provide excerpts from court documents describing how the Myers family spy team operated and how the FBI rolled them up after thirty years of betraying their country.

Mutual Admirer: On Learning of the Myers's Arrest, Fidel Castro Said, "I can't help but admire their disinterested and courageous conduct on behalf of Cuba."

ACCUSED SECRET SHOT-CALLER ALEX SANCHEZ’S TAKE-NO-PRISONERS BRIEF FLAMES TRIAL JUDGE MANUEL REAL — BOTTOM LINE: JUDGE DOESN’T GET IT

In bad manners, Crime, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on November 23, 2009 at 1:34 pm

 

 

 

Alex Sanchez — the admitted former Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gangster turned Los Angeles anti-gang worker, now accused by the feds of being a “secret shot caller” — has been repeatedly denied pre-trial release.  Now his lawyer, Kerry R. Bensinger, has taken the matter to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a take-no-prisoners brief that (in nice, polite lawyer language) flames trial Judge Manuel L. Real.

The brief scorches a few other targets, including the government’s trial lawyers and the principle MS-13 expert witness in the case, Los Angeles Police Department Gang Detective Frank Flores.  Flores’s testimony about the meaning of wiretaps (Sanchez allegedly directing a “hit” on a renegade gang member) was key in the detention hearings.  The defense claims that the government not only got one of the key phone call participants wrong, but Flores misconstrued what happened during the calls.

 

Judge Manuel L. Real

 

But Bensinger focuses his flamethrower on the 85-year old Judge Real, stating, “At a minimum, the matter should be remanded for a detention hearing before a different judge.”

If the judge did anything right, it escaped counsel’s notice.

Reading between the lines, Bensinger is conveying to the appeals court the message that — in his view — Real for whatever reason or reasons is confused or willfully obtuse about what the federal law requires in a bail (“detention”) hearing.  In short, the brief argues that the trial judge just doesn’t “get it.”

The 32-page document landed in the appeals court docket less than a week after that court issued an opinion and order applying its own flame to Judge Real.  (Bensinger has more to say on the matter — he asked the higher court to allow him to file additional material.) Here is the Los Angeles Times on the matter involving Real and the 9th Circuit (November 14, 2009):

Federal judge criticized for handling of claimants’ assets, Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2009

A federal appeals court Friday criticized U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real for his handling of $33.8 million entrusted to him for victims of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, calling his accounting “curious” and “filled with cryptic notations” that failed to show what happened to the money.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new accounting of the disputed assets by a different judge — a rare act of implied censure that Real has now endured at least 11 times in his long judicial career.

 

 

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The Stakes

 

If You Indict Mother Teresa, You Better Convict

 

The stakes are high for Sanchez in an already complicated case:  “Now five months since his arrest, Mr. Sanchez faces an extended pretrial detention as the parties believe this case will not be ready for trial before December 2010.”

Unstated is the fact that careers will be on the line in the case.  Indicting Alex Sanchez was the rough equivalent of indicting Mother Teresa.  If the Sanchez case flames out, the careers of more than one or two on the government’s side will hit the silk.

The following are unexpurgated excerpts from the appeals brief on behalf of Sanchez.  (“Appellant’s Memorandum of Law and Facts In Support [of] Appeal from Detention Order,” United States v. Alex Sanchez, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Docket No. 09-50525, filed November 20, 2009.)  Fairly Civil has inserted a minimum of explanatory background.  Additional materials on the case can be found in posts here, here, and here.

The government has ten days to reply.

The Basic Claim — Sanchez Was Denied a Fair Hearing

The core of Sanchez’s appeal is that he was denied a fair hearing on the only issues relevant to whether he should be released, which are (1) is he a risk of flight, and (2) does he present a threat to persons or a community?  Instead, the brief claims, Judge Real essentially held a “mini-trial” on whether Sanchez is guilty of the offenses with which he is charged.

This appeal from an order of pre-trial detention presents the question whether a defendant has been denied his right to a “full-blown adversary hearing” … when the district court limited the hearing to whether the government possessed evidence of the defendant’s guilt, foreclosed the defense from rebutting the government’s case with contrary evidence, shifted the burden of persuasion, ignored evidence relevant to flight and lack of danger and made only a “conclusory finding” misapplying the statutory presumption.

The Life of Alex

 

 

In Happier Times, Sanchez Enjoyed A Saintly Aura Comparable to that of Mother Teresa

 

Naturally enough, the brief sketches a factual review of a man grievously wronged by arbitrary and misdirected government conduct:

Mr. Sanchez quit gang life nearly 15 years ago, beginning a journey of redemption leading him to become one of the foremost anti-gang interventionists in the United States.  In 2006, he became the Executive Director of Homies Unidos, an organization dedicated to extricating youths from gangs and brokering and maintaining peace in communities afflicted by the scourge of gang violence.

On June 24, 2009, however, Mr. Sanchez, a long time resident of Los Angeles and the 38-year-0ld father of three, was arrested at his home and taken into custody on an indictment charging 24 defendants with various crimes in connection with alleged activities of the Mara Salvatrucha (“MS-13″).  Within days of his arrest, over 100 social workers, professors, politicians, clergy, law enforcement and former gang members from around the country raised a chorus of support to release Mr. Sanchez from custody, all attesting to his good character, commitment to peace and ties to the community.  This overwhelming support included over $2.5 million dollars in bail pledges and property.

At the detention hearing, the government claimed a chest tattoo indicated Mr. Sanchez had not quit the gang and four phone calls where Mr. Sanchez mediated a non-violent resolution to an intra-gang dispute supposedly evidenced a plot to kill  one of the disputants.  Announcing “the only determination I have to make on this motion” is “whether or not Mr. Sanchez was there” and “what they were discussing,” the district court precluded Mr. Sanchez from rebutting the government’s evidence about the significance of his chest tattoo while refusing lay and expert testimony contradicting the government’s interpretation of the calls.  Focused exclusively on whether there was evidence of Mr. Sanchez’s guilt, and ignoring evidence of Mr. Sanchez’s extensive ties to the community and reputation as a tireless and effective gang interventionist and violence prevention advocate, the district judge misapplied a statutory presumption, shifted the burden of persuasion, and ignored overwhelming evidence that Mr. Sanchez presents neither a flight risk nor a danger to others.

…the district judge refused to allow evidence on the three critical issues by (1) rejecting defense evidence undermining the inference the government sought to draw from Mr. Sanchez’s chest tattoo, (2) rejecting testimony refuting the government’s contention Mr. Sanchez spoke to Cameron’s killer, and (3) rejecting Mr. Sanchez’s proposed expert testimony disputing that the calls relayed “coded” messages.

The Right to Explain “the Physical Evidence”: The Tattoo:

The government stressed that “physical evidence,” in the form of a chest tattoo, showed Mr. Sanchez was still active in the gang.  Rosemarie Ashmalla, the Executive Director of the agency that removed Mr. Sanchez’s other tattoos, however, was prepared to testify that a chest tattoo was not evidence of ongoing gang affiliation because the tattoo removal program “had a policy of only removing visible tattoos.”  Ms. Ashmalla would have affirmed that most gang tattoo removal agencies, including hers, “do not generally remove non-visible tattoos, absent extraordinary reasons.”  As the head of an agency dedicated to removing gang tattoos (and the agency that removed Mr. Sanchez’s visible tattoos), Ms. Ashmalla was in a far better position that the prosecutor to explain the significance of a residual chest tattoo.  Rejecting her testimony was error.

The Damning Wiretaps — The Court Erroneously Precluded Mr. Sanchez From Presenting Relevant Expert Testimony to Rebut the Government’s Expert.

A focus of the case so far has been the government’s wiretaps of four calls in which Alex Sanchez certainly takes a leading role.  But the crucial question has developed to be:  was that leading role as a mediator and peace-maker or as a “shot caller” pushing the conversation to the ultimate murder in El Salvador of one Walter Lacinos (aka Camaron) by a gangster known as “Zombie”?  A close second is whether the government got the wrong “Zombie.”

Of critical importance, given the district court’s focus on “the content of these [four wire-tapped] conversations” is the district court’s refusal to permit Father Greg Boyle’s testimony.  Fr. Boyle is the Executive Director of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention program in the country, and a nationally recognized gang expert knowledgeable in gang language, interactions and “codes.”  After listening to the calls and reviewing Det. [Frank] Flores’s declaration re-interpreting the calls and the prosecution’s arguments based thereon, Fr. Boyle concluded that, rather than corroborating a murder plot, Mr. Sanchez’s statements reflected a gang mediator’s peacemaking efforts.

The brief argues that the judge erred in declaring Father Boyle’s statement not “relevant” to the questions in the detention hearing — a specific case of the judge “not getting it.”

The Court Erroneously Rejected Relevant Defense Evidence Explaining the Context of the Conversations in the Four Wire-tapped Calls.

The district court erroneously rejected the testimony of Sonia Hernandez, a witness who knew the government (and Flores) misidentified one of the key participants in the calls, distorting their interpretation of the statements made therein.

The government got its facts wrong.  Although both Hernandez and Bonilla used the name “Zombie,” the person who killed Camaron was not the person Mr. Sanchez spoke to on May 7.  Sonia Hernandez would have identified her brother’s voice (not Bonilla’s) as the Zombie on the May 7 call with Mr. Sanchez.

By authenticating her brother’s voice on the May 7 call, Ms. Hernandez would have confirmed Mr. Sanchez had not talked “to the person who ultimately did, in fact, carry out the murder in El Salvador,” but to another person also nicknamed “Zombie.”

The Court Shifted the Burden of Persuasion

The brief also addresses a technical point that involves the difference between the “burden of production” (producing some favorable evidence) and the “burden of persuasion” (persuading the fact-trier that the evidence is true).  Essentially, Bensinger argues again that Judge Real confused the two:

“The burden of persuasion regarding risk-of-flight and danger to the community always remains with the government…”  As now-Justice Breyer explained, even where the nature of the charges gives rise to “a rebuttable presumption that ‘no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the person as required and the safety of the community,” [citing 18 U.S. Code, Section 3142 (e)] this presumption only served to “shift the burden of production” and require the defendant to introduce “some evidence” to the contrary.

The brief argues that Sanchez met this burden of production with witnesses who could rebut the government’s factual assertions about the tattoo and the calls, his agreement to “many restrictions on his liberty,” and the character witnesses and property-owners willing to support his release.

The brief also points out additional problems with Judge Real’s ruling:  he did not provide the requisite written statement of reason for Sanchez’s detention, including findings of fact, and erroneously placed undue weight on evidence of guilt, as opposed to risk of flight or danger.

Despite its refrain that “this is not trial” — invoked only to exclude defense evidence contradicting the prosecution’s case — the district court transformed the detention hearing into a mini-trial on the merits of the charges…Rather than conduct an inquiry focused on whether the release of Mr. Sanchez posed a clear and present danger to any person or community, the district court devoted himself to prejudging the evidence of guilt even though, as now-Justice Kennedy reminded, “the statute neither requires not permits a pretrial determination that the person is guilty.”

This Case Should Be Reassigned to a Different Judge on Remand

The brief ends up with the following request, not coincidentally accompanied by a footnote referring to other instances in which the Ninth Circuit has corrected Judge Real:

Judge Real rejected Ms. Hernandez’s testimony refuting the government’s claim that Mr. Sanchez instructed Bonilla to kill Camaron because it was “totally irrelevant.”  Judge Real excluded this patently relevant evidence not on technical legal grounds but because he failed to appreciate its logical relevance to the crucial issues at hand.  The same is true with respect to Fr. Boyle’s testimony.  Even if the matter were remanded for renewed consideration, there is little chance Judge Real will accord this evidence it proper weight, simply because the disputed evidence has been found relevant and admissible…[He has already] declared that it is entitled to no weight whatsoever.  At a minimum, the matter should be remanded for a detention hearing before a different judge.

Fairly Civil looks forward to reading and posting excerpts from the government’s reply to this brief.

 

 

Government's Serve

 

INSPECTOR GENERAL: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE GANG INTELLIGENCE ISN’T

In Crime, Gangs, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, politics, Transnational crime, Turf Wars, Washington Bureaucracy on November 19, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Department of Justice Inspector General Report: DOJ's Two Major Anti-Gang Intelligence Units "Are Not Contributing Significantly to the Department's Anti-Gang Initiatives."

If a tree falls in the courtyard of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC, would anybody notice in Yakima, Washington?

Not if it involves the two units in the department charged with developing national anti-gang intelligence and coordination systems — at least,  according to the department’s inspector general.  In dispassionate, almost clinical language, a just-issued report by the IG’s staff pretty much trashed both the FBI-based National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) and the DOJ-based Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center (GangTECC).

The IG staff reports that “after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.”

A key recommendation — that the department consider merging the two rival siblings — is the kind of good government idea that could set off a classic turf war.

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

The following excerpts from the 63-page report — “A Review of the Department’s Anti-Gang Intelligence and Coordination Centers,” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, Evaluation and Inspections Division (November 2009) — cover the major points:

A Review of the Department’s Anti-Gang Intelligence and Coordination Centers

In January 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that the Department had taken several steps to address gang violence. Among those efforts were the establishment of three new entities: (1) the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), which was established by statute in January 2006, integrates the gang intelligence assets of all DOJ agencies and other partner agencies; (2) the National Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center (GangTECC), established in June 2006 by the Attorney General, serves as a central coordinating center for multi-jurisdictional gang investigations; and (3) the Gang Unit, another Attorney General initiative created in September 2006, develops and implements strategies to attack the most significant gangs and serves as the prosecutorial arm of the Department’s efforts against violent gangs.

….

Our review found that, after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.

National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC)

NGIC was established by statute in January 2006 to “collect, analyze, and disseminate gang activity information” from various federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutorial, and corrections agencies.5 The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used existing resources from its Criminal Intelligence Section to establish NGIC. The public law that established NGIC also charged the FBI with administering NGIC as a multi-agency center where intelligence analysts from federal, state, and local law enforcement work together to develop and share gang-related information. NGIC was to provide a centralized intelligence resource for gang information and analytical support to law enforcement agencies. For fiscal year (FY) 2008, NGIC’s budget was $6.6 million and, as of June 2009 there were a total of 27 staff at the NGIC.

Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordinating Center (GangTECC)

On February 15, 2006, Attorney General Gonzales announced plans to create a new national anti-gang task force as part of an initiative to combat gangs and gang violence. On June 26, 2006, GangTECC began operations under the leadership of the Department’s Criminal Division. Its mission is to bring together the Department’s operational law enforcement components and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify, prioritize, and target violent street gangs whose activities pose a significant multi-jurisdictional threat. According to its Concept of Operations, GangTECC is intended to coordinate overlapping investigations, ensure that tactical and strategic intelligence is shared between law enforcement agencies, and serve as a central coordinating and deconfliction center. Unlike NGIC, GangTECC is not authorized a separate budget by statute. Instead, costs are borne by the contributing agencies. As of early 2009, there were a total of 17 GangTECC staff members.

Our review found that, after almost 3 years of operation, NGIC and GangTECC still have not made a significant impact on the Department’s anti-gang activities. Despite being located in the same office suite, both NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively collaborating and are not sharing gang-related information.

Most importantly, NGIC has not established a gang information database for collecting and disseminating gang intelligence as directed by statute. NGIC is perceived as predominately an FBI organization, and it has not developed the capability to effectively share gang intelligence and information with other law enforcement organizations.

In contrast, we found that GangTECC has no budget and lacks the resources to carry out its mission. We also found that the Criminal Division has not filled an attorney position at GangTECC that is intended to enable it to provide guidance to law enforcement officials conducting gang investigations and prosecutions. In addition, because GangTECC’s member agencies and the United States Attorneys’ Offices (USAO) are not required to inform GangTECC of their investigations and prosecutions, GangTECC cannot effectively deconflict the Department’s gang-related activities as directed by the Deputy Attorney General. Further, GangTECC’s efforts to publicize its priority gang targets have lagged.

As a result of the above, NGIC and GangTECC are not effectively providing investigators and prosecutors with “one-stop shopping” for gang information and assistance, and they are not contributing significantly to the Department’s anti-gang initiatives.

NGIC has not developed a gang information database as directed by Congress.

NGIC planned to create and maintain a library of gang identification information and make that library available to investigators, prosecutors, and other law enforcement staff. In addition, NGIC planned to establish electronic bridges to federal, state, and local information technology systems to connect disparate federal and state databases containing gang information or intelligence.

However, technological limitations and operational problems have inhibited NGIC from deploying a gang information database. For example, NGIC has not developed the electronic bridges necessary to allow it to access information from states that have technologically disparate databases on gangs. In addition, performance issues with a contractor contributed to the delay in the development of the gang library. As of July 2009, the information management system and electronic bridges have not progressed beyond the development phase. Unless NGIC can obtain a technical solution for bridging these databases, NGIC’s ability to use existing gang information will be very limited.

NGIC is not effectively sharing gang intelligence and information.

To effectively share gang intelligence and information, NGIC must know the needs of the law enforcement personnel who are its customers and ensure they are aware of the NGIC’s capability to support their gang-related investigations and prosecutions.

We found that NGIC has few regular users outside of the FBI, GangTECC, and itself. These three organizations accounted for 64 percent of all requests received by NGIC. The remaining 36 percent of the requests were distributed among 15 other customer groups. With respect to the “state, local, and tribal law enforcement” customer group, our analysis showed that few requests came from these potential customers. This customer group encompasses the majority of law enforcement agencies and personnel in the United States – over 30,000 agencies and 700,000 sworn officers – and has the greatest interactions with criminally active gangs in the United States. Yet, despite its large size, this customer group made an average of only 3 requests per year and submitted only 13 of the 213 total requests for information received by NGIC from its inception in 2006 to February 2009.

In discussions with the NGIC and GangTECC personnel and other law enforcement officials about why NGIC was not used more frequently by law enforcement agencies, we found that NGIC was not perceived as an independent, multi-agency center by many of the law enforcement personnel we interviewed. It was repeatedly referred to as being “FBI-centric” in the products it generates and the intelligence analysis that it provides.

We also found that, in the 38-month period we examined, NGIC responded to only about six requests a month. While this increased to about 17 requests a month in the first 5 months of FY 2009, that number is still small given NGIC’s staffing of 20 intelligence analysts. NGIC management attributed the small number of requests to the law enforcement community’s unfamiliarity with NGIC – despite the Center’s attempts to advertise its presence – and to NGIC personnel not recording all the requests they received.

Although GangTECC’s operational guidance states that it is intended to be a major user of NGIC’s gang intelligence services, its use remains limited.

GangTECC has insufficient resources to carry out its mission of coordinating gang investigations and prosecutions.

GangTECC has a broad, multi-purpose mission, but only 12 members and no operating budget. Participating components are required to contribute staff to GangTECC and pay their salaries out of their own budgets. The lack of an operating budget has prevented GangTECC managers from taking actions essential to its operations, including hosting case coordination meetings and conducting effective outreach to the law enforcement community. Almost all GangTECC members we interviewed, as well as the GangTECC Director and Criminal Division officials, stressed that the lack of an operating budget is the biggest hindrance for GangTECC, particularly when it prevents the GangTECC personnel from fully participating in case coordination meetings.

Coordination efforts. Organizing and participating in case coordination meetings is central to GangTECC’s mission to identify common targets between law enforcement agencies. GangTECC identifies opportunities to coordinate gang investigations with multiple law enforcement agencies and attempts to organize case coordination meetings to bring together federal, state, and local investigators, analysts, and prosecutors to share information. Successfully coordinated cases may enable charges to be brought against large, geographically dispersed gang-related criminal enterprises.

GangTECC has coordinated 12 cases that involved multiple law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions, and these efforts resulted in better, stronger cases for prosecution. GangTECC has also facilitated cooperation and coordination in over 100 other cases in which investigators or agencies would not initially share information on common targets with one another. Law enforcement personnel we interviewed who used the GangTECC’s services reported high levels of satisfaction and told us that case coordination was the most helpful service that GangTECC could provide to the field.

Notwithstanding the demonstrated value, the GangTECC Director told us there have been at least five occasions when GangTECC has been unable to host or even attend out-of-state case coordination meetings because it was unable to fund travel costs. For example, GangTECC could not host case coordination meetings for two cases involving the Latin Kings gang. As a result of the limitations on GangTECC’s ability to execute its mission, opportunities to better coordinate the Department’s efforts to combat gang crime have been lost.

Deconfliction by GangTECC is not occurring as directed by the Deputy Attorney General.

Over its 3-year existence, GangTECC has not established itself as the central coordination and deconfliction center envisioned by its Concept of Operations.9 Although it was intended that GangTECC would “provide a strong, national deconfliction center for gang operations,” neither GangTECC’s own participating components nor USAOs are required to notify GangTECC of newly opened gang cases. Consequently, GangTECC cannot effectively deconflict the Department’s anti-gang activities on a national level.

GangTECC’s efforts to publicize priority gang targets have lagged.

GangTECC is required to use information from NGIC and other sources to identify priority targets and propose strategies to neutralize the most violent and significant gang threats. According to the GangTECC Director, GangTECC and NGIC first identified 13 priority gang targets in 2006. However, we found little evidence during our review that the list was used outside the two Centers.

NGIC and GangTECC are not effective as independent entities.

NGIC and GangTECC’s operational plans required them to co-locate so that they would establish a relationship in which the resources of each Center would be integrated with and fully utilized by the other. An effective NGIC and GangTECC partnership would include deconfliction, identification of priority gang targets, and sharing of gang information. While the Centers are located in the same office suite in the same building, this co-location of NGIC and GangTECC did not lead to the anticipated partnership. Our discussions with NGIC and GangTECC personnel regarding their interactions found that communication between the two Centers remains limited and ad hoc.

In addition, while both NGIC and GangTECC advertise at conferences and in their pamphlets that they provide investigators and prosecutors with a “one-stop shopping” capability for gang information and assistance, this capability has not been achieved due to various impediments. NGIC is administered by the FBI while GangTECC is administered by the Criminal Division. We found that differing leadership and management philosophies, funding sources (dedicated funding versus funding through contributions by member agencies), and investigative priorities have limited the Centers’ ability to work together effectively.

We believe that the Department should consider merging NGIC and GangTECC into a single unit under common leadership.

MEXICAN DRUG TRAFFICKERS TARGET TEXAS KIDS

In bad manners, Corruption, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Mexico, Transnational crime on November 17, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Parents' Nightmare: Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations Recruiting Children in Texas

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Mexican drug trafficking organizations are targeting children in Texas as recruits for their violent criminal operations.

Here is the text of the media release issued by DPS on November 17, 2009:

November 17, 2009

DPS warns parents: Mexican cartels and gangs recruiting in Texas schools

The Texas Department of Public Safety is warning parents across the state to be aware of efforts by Mexican cartels and transnational gangs to recruit Texas youth in our schools and communities. These violent organizations are luring teens with the prospect of cars, money and notoriety, promising them if they get caught, they will receive a minimal sentence.

The Mexican cartels constantly seek new ways to smuggle drugs and humans into Texas are now using state based gangs and our youth to support their operations on both sides of the border.

For example, Laredo natives Gabriel Cardona and Rosalio Reta were recruited in their teens to be hit men for the Zetas. The Zetas, composed primarily of former Mexican military commandos, originally served as the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, but have since become their own cartel. El Paso teens have been recruited to smuggle drugs across the border, many with the packs taped to their bodies.

While such recruitment is growing across Texas, juveniles along the Texas-Mexico border are particularly susceptible. In 2008, young people from the counties along the Texas-Mexico border accounted for just 9 percent of the population in Texas, but 18 percent of the felony drug charges and gang-related arrests.

“As these dangerous organizations seek to co-opt our children to support their criminal operations, it is more important than ever that parents be aware of these risks, talk to their children and pay attention to any signs that they may have become involved in illegal activities,” said Steven C. McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

To protect our communities and our children from these powerful and ruthless criminal organizations, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the District Attorneys in Texas border counties are working together to detect, disrupt and deter Mexican cartel-related crime along the Texas-Mexico border.

MAJOR NIDAL MALIK HASAN’S RAMPAGE SPELLS “CAREER-ENDER” AS SEARCH FOR FALL GUYS TO PIN TAIL ON GRINDS ON

In bad manners, Ethics in Washington, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Obama, politics, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism on November 11, 2009 at 4:15 pm
richardson

Admiral James O. Richardson Testifies Before Congress On His Career-Ending Opposition to Forward Basing of U.S. Fleet at Pearl Harbor

As Congress, civilian leaders, and the public demand more accountability from service members and our military leaders, the Washington politics can involve cannibalistic witch-hunting at the highest levels. The pressure to be perfect, the one-mistake service, can take its toll on all members of the armed forces; from the airman and seaman to the service chief himself.

John J. Sproul, Major, USAF, Research Report, Air Command and Staff College, Air University, CSAF V. CNO: Core Values and  Their Career Ending Impact (April 1998).

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Admiral Richardson in Better Days

The summary of the career of Admiral James O. Richardson at the Naval Historical Center’s photo page is crisp and about as scrubbed of controversy as one can get:  “Beginning in January 1940, he was Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, holding that position during a stressful period marked by the fleet’s forward deployment to Pearl Harbor. Relieved by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel in February 1941, he served at the Navy Department into 1942.”

What it leaves out is one salient detail of that “stressful period” and its impact on Admiral Richardson’s career.  In October 1940 Richardson told President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that continued deployment of the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor was a bad idea for a number of reasons.  This military advice did not go down well with the Commander-in-Chief, who had his own plan and his own impression of himself as a naval strategist.  With months, Admiral Richardson was replaced by Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, on whose watch the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Day of Infamy,  occurred on December 7, 1941.

Adm. Kimmel is said also to have not been enthusiastic about the fleet’s basing, but having got the message, he saluted and sailed on.

The rest is history.

One is sure that the matter was infinitely more complicated than that tiny summary.  But what is not complicated is that — as is the case in all publicly known government disasters — the final stage of every project is the hunt for someone to blame.  This involves a lot of perfect hindsight mixed with the bowel-chilling perception of participants (think the 3:00 a.m. phone call) that this could be their own personal career-ender.

Thus, one is sure that some very angry arguments have been going on — at the “highest levels” — of Washington’s military and civilian establishment.  Cynics would say that the risk of summary beheading is usually in inverse proportion to one’s rank.  Agents and investigators are expendable.  Generals and directors are not.

450px-Awlaki_1008

What Kind of Innocent Contact Could a U.S. Army Officer Have With This Man, Anwar al Awlaki, Who Is LInked to Numerous Home Grown Terror Plots?

In that context, the following post from Strategypage.com about the case of Ft. Hood’s apparent-jihadist, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, seems to combine just the right film-noir-like mix of real-world experience and knowing resignation.  The full text is about the use of statistical techniques for predicting terrorism, but the excerpt here deals (speculatively, to be sure) with the problems inherent in Major Hasan’s case for everyone involved:

Ignoring The Threat Does Not Make It Go Away

November 11, 2009: Even before September 11, 2001, counter-terrorism experts sought to use statistical techniques to predict where the next big terror attack would occur….

In the United States, these techniques still suffer from a shortage of data (terrorists.) With enough data, you can test your model by successfully predicting the past, and then turn it on the future. But with insufficient data, you have to rely on human judgment. This is subject to other factors, like the political atmosphere. An example of this was the recent terror attack in Fort Hood, Texas. There, a Moslem army officer, shouting “God Is Great”, murdered 13 soldiers and civilians, and wounded over thirty others. The major had previously been detected by the counter-terror intelligence system (both via emails to known terrorists and his public calls for attacks on non-Moslems.) When the FBI (which handles counter-terror intelligence inside the U.S.) urged the army to do something, the army declined. The FBI did not press the matter. One can imagine army commanders, confronting what the FBI described as a “potential” terrorist, realizing that in the current political climate, disciplining (or discharging) a Moslem army officer would endanger the careers of the generals involved in such a decision. So nothing was done, until the terrorist made his move.

It should be noted that at this writing the Department of Defense denies that anyone in the military establishment above the grade of an investigator detailed to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (sound effect here: chop, chop) was ever informed of the information that had been developed about Hasan.

The buck is thus in furious circulation now.

The Los Angeles Times has an excellent piece today (Thursday, November 12, 2009)(“Fort Hood suspect’s contact with cleric spelled trouble, experts say,” by Sebastian Rotella and Josh Meyer).  Here are relevant excerpts:

The radical cleric contacted by accused Ft. Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan has such unmistakable connections to past terrorist plots that his e-mail exchanges with the American should have triggered an all-out investigation, a number of officials and experts now believe

….

Awlaki has left a well-documented trail of influence in a string of recent terrorism cases in North America and Europe.

“It seems that the American investigators had difficulties detecting signs of worrisome conduct,” Jean-Louis Bruguiere, a veteran French anti-terrorism judge, said in a telephone interview. “It may also be that, because of the respect for religion, and the excesses by the U.S. services in recent years, that today there’s a tendency to be too prudent — perhaps less vigilant.”

Bruguiere is a giant in counter-terrorism, having been instrumental in the cases — among many others — of Carlos the Jackal and the Libyan mid-air bombing of UTA Flight 772 over the Sahara Desert in 1989 with the loss of 170 lives.

Stratfor.com has a thoughtful and informed analysis here. This is a relevant excerpt, but the whole piece covers many more angles:

So far, the Hasan shooting investigation is being run by the Army CID, and the FBI has been noticeably — and uncharacteristically — absent from the scene. As the premier law enforcement agency in the United States, the FBI will often assume authority over investigations where there is even a hint of terrorism. Since 9/11, the number of FBI/JTTF offices across the country has been dramatically increased, and the JTTFs are specifically charged with investigating cases that may involve terrorism. Therefore, we find the FBI’s absence in this case to be quite out of the ordinary.

However, with Hasan being a member of the armed forces, the victims being soldiers or army civilian employees and the incident occurring at Fort Hood, the case would seem to fall squarely under the mantle of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). From a prosecutorial perspective, a homicide trial under the UCMJ should be very tidy and could be quickly concluded. It will not involve all the potential loose ends that could pop up in a federal terrorism trial, especially when those loose ends involve what the FBI and CIA knew about Hasan, when they learned it and who they told. Also, politically, there are some who would like to see the Hasan case remain a criminal matter rather than a case of terrorism. Following the shooting death of Luqman Ameen Abdullah and considering the delicate relationship between Muslim advocacy groups and the U.S. government, some people would rather see Hasan portrayed as a mentally disturbed criminal than as an ideologically driven lone wolf.

Despite the CID taking the lead in prosecuting the case, the classified national security investigation by the CIA and FBI into Hasan and his possible connections to jihadist elements is undoubtedly continuing. Senior members of the government will certainly demand to know if Hasan had any confederates, if he was part of a bigger plot and if there are more attacks to come. Several congressmen and senators are also calling for hearings into the case, and if such hearings occur, they will certainly produce an abundance of interesting information pertaining to Hasan and the national security investigation of his activities.

Round and round it goes.  Where it will stop, nobody knows.

Truman_pass-the-buck2

TIMELY STRATFOR ANALYSIS ON HOW TO DETECT GRASSROOTS JIHADISTS

In Afghanistan, bad manners, Guns, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism on November 10, 2009 at 5:24 pm

From Stratfor.com

Counterterrorism: Shifting from ‘Who’ to ‘How’

November 4, 2009

By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

Stratfor.com

In the 11th edition of the online magazine Sada al-Malahim (The Echo of Battle), which was released to jihadist Web sites last week, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasir al-Wahayshi wrote an article that called for jihadists to conduct simple attacks against a variety of targets. The targets included “any tyrant, intelligence den, prince” or “minister” (referring to the governments in the Muslim world like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen), and “any crusaders whenever you find one of them, like at the airports of the crusader Western countries that participate in the wars against Islam, or their living compounds, trains etc.,” (an obvious reference to the United States and Europe and Westerners living in Muslim countries).

Al-Wahayshi, an ethnic Yemeni who spent time in Afghanistan serving as a lieutenant under Osama bin Laden, noted these simple attacks could be conducted with readily available weapons such as knives, clubs or small improvised explosive devices (IEDs). According to al-Wahayshi, jihadists “don’t need to conduct a big effort or spend a lot of money to manufacture 10 grams of explosive material” and that they should not “waste a long time finding the materials, because you can find all these in your mother’s kitchen, or readily at hand or in any city you are in.”

That al-Wahayshi gave these instructions in an Internet magazine distributed via jihadist chat rooms, not in some secret meeting with his operational staff, demonstrates that they are clearly intended to reach grassroots jihadists — and are not intended as some sort of internal guidance for AQAP members. In fact, al-Wahayshi was encouraging grassroots jihadists to “do what Abu al-Khair did” referring to AQAP member Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, the Saudi suicide bomber who attempted to kill Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef with a small IED on Aug. 28.

The most concerning aspect of al-Wahayshi’s statement is that it is largely true. Improvised explosive mixtures are in fact relatively easy to make from readily available chemicals — if a person has the proper training — and attacks using small IEDs or other readily attainable weapons such as knives or clubs (or firearms in the United States) are indeed quite simple to conduct.

As STRATFOR has noted for several years now, with al Qaeda’s structure under continual attack and no regional al Qaeda franchise groups in the Western Hemisphere, the most pressing jihadist threat to the U.S. homeland at present stems from grassroots jihadists, not the al Qaeda core. This trend has been borne out by the large number of plots and arrests over the past several years, to include several so far in 2009. The grassroots have likewise proven to pose a critical threat to Europe (although it is important to note that the threat posed by grassroots operatives is more widespread, but normally involves smaller, less strategic attacks than those conducted by the al Qaeda core).

From a counterterrorism perspective, the problem posed by grassroots operatives is that unless they somehow self-identify by contacting a government informant or another person who reports them to authorities, attend a militant training camp, or conduct electronic correspondence with a person or organization under government scrutiny, they are very difficult to detect.

The threat posed by grassroots operatives, and the difficulty identifying them, highlight the need for counterterrorism programs to adopt a proactive, protective intelligence approach to the problem — an approach that focuses on “the how” of militant attacks instead of just “the who.”

The How

In the traditional, reactive approach to counterterrorism, where authorities respond to a crime scene after a terrorist attack to find and arrest the militants responsible for the attack, it is customary to focus on the who, or on the individual or group behind the attack. Indeed, in this approach, the only time much emphasis is placed on the how is either in an effort to identify a suspect when an unknown actor carried out the attack, or to prove that a particular suspect was responsible for the attack during a trial. Beyond these limited purposes, not much attention is paid to the how.

In large part, this focus on the who is a legacy of the fact that for many years, the primary philosophy of the U.S. government was to treat counterterrorism as a law-enforcement program, with a focus on prosecution rather than on disrupting plots.

Certainly, catching and prosecuting those who commit terrorist attacks is necessary, but from our perspective, preventing attacks is more important, and prevention requires a proactive approach. To pursue such a proactive approach to counterterrorism, the how becomes a critical question. By studying and understanding how attacks are conducted — i.e., the exact steps and actions required for a successful attack — authorities can establish systems to proactively identify early indicators that planning for an attack is under way. People involved in planning the attack can then be focused on, identified, and action can be taken prevent them from conducting the attack or attacks they are plotting. This means that focusing on the how can lead to previously unidentified suspects, e.g., those who do not self-identify.

“How was the attack conducted?” is the primary question addressed by protective intelligence, which is, at its core, a process for proactively identifying and assessing potential threats. Focusing on the how, then, requires protective intelligence practitioners to carefully study the tactics, tradecraft and behavior associated with militant actors involved in terrorist attacks. This allows them to search for and identify those behaviors before an attack takes place. Many of these behaviors are not by themselves criminal in nature; visiting a public building and observing security measures or standing on the street to watch the arrival of a VIP at their office are not illegal, but they can be indicators that an attack is being plotted. Such legal activities ultimately could be overt actions in furtherance of an illegal conspiracy to conduct the attack, but even where conspiracy cannot be proved, steps can still be taken to identify possible assailants and prevent a potential attack — or at the very least, to mitigate the risk posed by the people involved.

Protective intelligence is based on the fact that successful attacks don’t just happen out of the blue. Rather, terrorist attacks follow a discernable attack cycle. There are critical points during that cycle where a plot is most likely to be detected by an outside observer. Some of the points during the attack cycle when potential attackers are most vulnerable to detection are while surveillance is being conducted and weapons are being acquired. However, there are other, less obvious points where people on the lookout can spot preparations for an attack.

It is true that sometimes individuals do conduct ill-conceived, poorly executed attacks that involve shortcuts in the planning process. But this type of spur-of-the-moment attack is usually associated with mentally disturbed individuals and it is extremely rare for a militant actor to conduct a spontaneous terrorist attack without first following the steps of the attack cycle.

To really understand the how, protective intelligence practitioners cannot simply acknowledge that something like surveillance occurs. Rather, they must turn a powerful lens on steps like preoperational surveillance to gain an in-depth understanding of them. Dissecting an activity like preoperational surveillance requires not only examining subjects such as the demeanor demonstrated by those conducting surveillance prior to an attack and the specific methods and cover for action and status used. It also requires identifying particular times where surveillance is most likely and certain optimal vantage points (called perches in surveillance jargon) from where a surveillant is most likely to operate when seeking to surveil a specific facility or event. This type of complex understanding of surveillance can then be used to help focus human or technological countersurveillance efforts where they can be most effective.

Unfortunately, many counterterrorism investigators are so focused on the who that they do not focus on collecting this type of granular how information. When we have spoken with law enforcement officers responsible for investigating recent grassroots plots, they gave us blank stares in response to questions about how the suspects had conducted surveillance on the intended targets. They simply had not paid attention to this type of detail — but this oversight is not really the investigators’ fault. No one had ever explained to them why paying attention to, and recording, this type of detail was important. Moreover, it takes specific training and a practiced eye to observe and record these details without glossing over them. For example, it is quite useful if a protective intelligence officer has first conducted a lot of surveillance, because conducting surveillance allows one to understand what a surveillant must do and where he must be in order to effectively observe surveillance of a specific person or place.

Similarly, to truly understand the tradecraft required to build an IED and the specific steps a militant needs to complete to do so, it helps to go to an IED school where the investigator learns the tradecraft firsthand. Militant actors can and do change over time. New groups, causes and ideologies emerge, and specific militants can be killed, captured or retire. But the tactical steps a militant must complete to conduct a successful attack are constant. It doesn’t matter if the person planning an attack is a radical environmentalist, a grassroots jihadist or a member of the al Qaeda core, for while these diverse actors will exhibit different levels of professionalism in regard to terrorist tradecraft, they still must follow essentially the same steps, accomplish the same tasks and operate in the same areas. Knowing this allows protective intelligence to guard against different levels of threats.

Of course, tactics can be changed and perfected and new tactics can be developed (often in response to changes in security and law enforcement operations). Additionally, new technologies can emerge (like cell phones and Google Earth) — which can alter the way some of these activities are conducted, or reduce the time it takes to complete them. Studying the tradecraft and behaviors needed to execute evolving tactics, however, allows protective intelligence practitioners to respond to such changes and even alter how they operate in order to more effectively search for potential hostile activity.

Technology does not only aid those seeking to conduct attacks. There are a variety of new tools, such as Trapwire, a software system designed to work with camera systems to help detect patterns of preoperational surveillance, that can be focused on critical areas to help cut through the fog of noise and activity and draw attention to potential threats. These technological tools can help turn the tables on unknown plotters because they are designed to focus on the how. They will likely never replace human observation and experience, but they can serve as valuable aids to human perception.

Of course, protective intelligence does not have to be the sole responsibility of federal authorities specifically charged with counterterrorism. Corporate security managers and private security contractors should also apply these principles to protecting the people and facilities in their charge, as should local and state police agencies. In a world full of soft targets — and limited resources to protect those targets from attack — the more eyes looking for such activity the better. Even the general public has an important role to play in practicing situational awareness and spotting potential terrorist activity.

Keeping it Simple?

Al-Wahayshi is right that it is not difficult to construct improvised explosives from a wide range of household chemicals like peroxide and acetone or chlorine and brake fluid. He is also correct that some of those explosive mixtures can be concealed in objects ranging from electronic items to picture frames, or can be employed in forms ranging from hand grenades to suicide vests. Likewise, low-level attacks can also be conducted using knives, clubs and guns.

Furthermore, when grassroots jihadists plan and carry out attacks acting as lone wolves or in small compartmentalized cells without inadvertently betraying their mission by conspiring with people known to the authorities, they are not able to be detected by the who-focused systems, and it becomes far more difficult to discover and thwart these plots. This focus on the how absolutely does not mean that who-centered programs must be abandoned. Surveillance on known militants, their associates and communications should continue, efforts to identify people attending militant training camps or fighting in places like Afghanistan or Somalia must be increased, and people who conduct terrorist attacks should be identified and prosecuted.

However — and this is an important however — if an unknown militant is going to conduct even a simple attack against some of the targets al-Wahayshi suggests, such as an airport, train, or specific leader or media personality, complexity creeps into the picture, and the planning cycle must be followed if an attack is going to be successful. The prospective attacker must observe and quantify the target, construct a plan for the attack and then execute that plan. The demands of this process will force even an attacker previously unknown to the authorities into a position where he is vulnerable to discovery. If the attacker does this while there are people watching for such activity, he will likely be seen. But if he does this while there are no watchers, there is little chance that he will become a who until after the attack has been completed.

MAJOR MALIK NIDAL HASAN INVESTIGATION CREEPS ON — FBI DOES NOT FIND ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

In Afghanistan, bad manners, Crime, Cultural assassination, Guns, Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, politics, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism on November 10, 2009 at 4:02 am
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Major Malik Nidal Hasan Shops at Local Convenience Store

An FBI press release (reproduced in full below) provides an update: government investigators cannot find an elephant in this room.

Passing strange.

Please suspend common sense and do not jump to any unwarranted conclusions — about political correctness, for example — while experts examine the obvious.  Even if it strikes one as more than a bit like children pushing Brussels sprouts under other food on their plates.

For another approach, check out this story about the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s more . . . umm . . . aggressive analysis.  Or the hard-core opinion (“Sometimes an Extremist Really Is an Extremist’) of Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg here.

Investigation Continues Into Fort Hood Shooting

The FBI continues to work closely with the Department of the Army in the joint, ongoing investigation into the tragic events that occurred last Thursday at Fort Hood. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families.

With respect to the investigation—the Army Criminal Investigative Division is leading a coordinated criminal investigation with the support of the FBI and other components of the Department of Justice and the Texas Rangers. The investigation is in its early stages and the information we can provide now is limited.

With respect to what the FBI is doing—personnel from the Counterterrorism Division, Laboratory Division, and the Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) are on site in support of the tragedy. The personnel deployed by the Laboratory and CIRG are specialists in crime scene analysis, evidence collection, and shooting incident reconstruction. Our victim assistance teams are working closely with their counterpart Department of Defense specialists, and we will continue to provide whatever resources are necessary to support the investigation.

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Experts at Work: "The investigation to date has not identified a motive, and a number of possibilities remain under consideration."

At this point, there is no information to indicate Major Malik Nidal Hasan had any co-conspirators or was part of a broader terrorist plot. The investigation to date has not identified a motive, and a number of possibilities remain under consideration. We are working with the military to obtain, review, and analyze all information relating to Major Hasan in order to allow for a better understanding of the facts and circumstances that led to the Fort Hood shooting. Understandably, there is a large volume of information in various forms and it will take us some time to complete this work.

There has been and continues to be a great deal of reported information about what was or might have been known to the government about Major Hasan prior to the shooting.

Major Hasan came to the attention of the FBI in December 2008 as part of an unrelated investigation being conducted by one of our Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs). JTTFs are FBI-led, multi-agency teams made up of FBI agents, other federal investigators—including those from the Department of Defense—and state and local law enforcement officers.

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"Investigators on the JTTF reviewed certain communications between Major Hasan and the subject of that investigation and assessed that the content of those communications was consistent with research being conducted by Major Hasan in his position as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Medical Center."

Investigators on the JTTF reviewed certain communications between Major Hasan and the subject of that investigation and assessed that the content of those communications was consistent with research being conducted by Major Hasan in his position as a psychiatrist at the Walter Reed Medical Center. Because the content of the communications was explainable by his research and nothing else derogatory was found, the JTTF concluded that Major Hasan was not involved in terrorist activities or terrorist planning. Other communications of which the FBI was aware were similar to the ones reviewed by the JTTF.

Our top priority is to ensure that the person responsible for the Fort Hood shooting is held accountable. The ongoing investigation includes forensic examinations of Major Hasan’s computers and any Internet activity in hopes of gaining insight into his motivation. But the investigation to date indicates that the alleged gunman acted alone and was not part of a broader terrorist plot.

After meeting with the president, FBI Director Robert Mueller ordered a review of this matter to determine all of the facts and circumstances related to this tragedy and whether, with the benefit of hindsight, any policies or practices should change based on what we learn.

Again, this is a joint, ongoing criminal investigation that continues to move forward on many fronts. There is still much to learn. As a pending criminal case, the government remains limited in what information can be disclosed publicly about a United States citizen under investigation. As with any criminal investigation, all suspects are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty of a crime in a court of law.

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At the Gates of Vienna

LESSON FROM MAJOR NIDAL MALIK HASAN, CHO SEUNG-HUI, AND JOHN ALLEN MUHAMMAD TO MS-13 HIT MEN AND BOSTON TERROR CELL: IT’S A POOR WORKMAN THAT BLAMES HIS TOOLS

In Afghanistan, bad manners, Crime, Gangs, Latino gangs, politics, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism, Transnational crime on November 10, 2009 at 12:14 am
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Virginia Tech Shooter Cho Seung-Hui, Like Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Ft. Hood, Used a Killing Tool Widely and Easily Available on the U.S. Civilian Market to Decimate Virginia Tech Campus -- The High-Capacity Semi-Automatic Pistol

Fairly Civil‘s last post on the alleged plot by Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) leaders in El Salvador to assassinate an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent (“John Doe”) in Queens, New York, brought a skeptical response from some law enforcement quarters.  Here is the core of the post, which includes excerpts from an affidivait accompanying a request for an arrest warrant:

According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant, an MS-13 member specifically tasked to kill the ICE agent described the plot to federal agents. The gangsters were looking for an AK-47 or M-16 assault rifle to do the job.

The post also referred to a similar alleged MS-13 plot to kill LAPD gang detective Frank Flores, described in “The Plot to Whack a Cop,” which can be found here.

But retired Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department gang Sergeant Richard Valdemar questions in a private communication to the author whether these two incidents show a pattern, much less a shift, in MS-13′s abilities and intent regarding attacks on law enforcement officers:

Funny how in the many years (1993-2004) working with the FBI Task Force with numerous agents and agencies on the MS they would now fix on one LAPD Officer Flores in Los Angeles and one “John Doe” the ICE man in New York, and they can’t seem to find a AR-15 or AK-47 to do the dastardly deed. I think there have been a lot more effective cases and cops doing serious damage to the gang over the years than these two.

More likely …an informant, or couple of informants, got twisted in Los Angeles and New York, and gave up their own clique homeboys with information that they knew the cops would value (“they plan to kill a cop”). This kind of talk goes on a lot in the gang world, but the gang members don’t always go beyond the talking stage. And you, who has studied the trafficking in weapons associated with gangs (transnational gangs especially), can’t seriously buy the …”we can’t find an assault rifle to use” excuse.

At least one mid-level ICE official active in anti-gang operations in the Southwest agrees that one case does not make a pattern shift for MS-13 (the depredations and history of which are detailed in my book No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement.)

Be that as it may, the cases raise an interesting question.  What kind of gangster or would-be terrorist can’t find the tools to do the job in the United States?

The gangsters in the ICE case allegedly were having problems finding their weapons of choice, i.e. a “fully automatic” M-16 or AK clone.  This echoed the case of would-be terrorists in Boston, posted here, who gave up a plot to shoot up shopping centers because they also could not obtain machine guns:

Fortunately, however, these jihadists thought they need machine guns, i.e., fully automatic weapons — hold the trigger down and the gun will fire until ammo is exhausted – to do the job. They gave up when they found out they could not obtain machine guns. However, knowledgeable experts understand that controlled fire from semiautomatic weapons — pull the trigger for each round — is at least as lethal and often more lethal than machine gun fire.

Thank g-d these extremist would-be terrorists were “weaponry pea brains.”

One might conclude that both of these cases simply reflect fortuitous ignorance on the part of would-be plotters.  Knowledge of firearms is not — as too many voices active in public fora apparently assume — easily received wisdom.  There is a stunning array of gun and ammunition types, with diverse capabilities, pros and cons, easily and widely available on the U.S. civilian gun market — not to mention the widespread criminal traffic in guns.  Any terrorist or gangster who complains about not being able to find the right tool for the job at hand is either a pea-brain or a poseur.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  But how long can we count on stupidity?

On the other hand, three successful mass shooters demonstrated that with firearms easily obtainable on the U.S. civilian market, a little bit of knowledge, premeditation, criminal intent, mental imbalance, and/or jihadist inspiration can be easily transformed into mass blood and carnage on … one wants to say “soft targets,” but how does one classify a U.S. Army fort?

Cho Seung-Hui committed suicide after killing 32 and wounding 25 in his infamous “Virginia Tech Massacre.” Washington Beltway sniper John Muhammad is scheduled to meet his maker after execution by lethal injection Tuesday, November 10. 1009, the U.S. Supreme Court having rejected his last-ditch appeal. Major Nidal Malik Hasan is alive at this writing, while government agencies try to figure out whether he was “merely” a jihadist gone nuts or a globally linked-in jihadist.

Major Hasan’s Choice for Killing Soldiers — The FN FiveseveN High Capacity Semiautomatic Pistol

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Major Hasan's Pick for Soldier-Killing Machine -- FN's FiveseveN -- is Known in Mexico as the Matapolicia, or "Cop-Killer."

FN Herstal’s FiveseveN (cute name, eh?) semiautomatic pistol fires a small caliber round at very high velocity.  It is plain and simply a “vest-buster.”  The proprietary round-handgun combination is one of the most popular firearms smuggled by firearms traffickers into Mexico, where it is known as the matapolicia, or “cop killer.”

FN originally created the 5.7X28mm cartridge as the ammunition for the P-90 submachine gun.  The P-90 SMG was designed at the invitation of NATO and in response to military needs for a weapon to be used by “troops who needed both hands for other tasks, such as officers, NCOs and technical troops,” and that would be effective against the body armor that has become standard on the battlefield.

In the mid-1990s FNH set out to design a handgun to accompany the P90 SMG. This would not have been an issue if FN had stuck to its original profession that it would restrict the sale of its new armor-piercing ammunition and pistol.

The company clearly recognized the dangerous genie it was releasing. For example, a spokesman for the company told the Sunday Times in 1996 that the pistol was “too potent” for normal police duties and was designed for anti-terrorist and hostage rescue operations. The NRA’s American Rifleman claimed in 1999 that: “Law enforcement and military markets are the target groups of FN’s new FiveseveN pistol,” and told its readers, “Don’t expect to see this cartridge sold over the counter in the United States. In this incarnation, it is strictly a law enforcement or military round.” In 2000, American Handgunner magazine assured the public, “For reasons that will become obvious, neither the gun nor the ammunition will ever be sold to civilians or even to individual officers.”

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High Capacity of the Fiveseven Adds to Its Mass Killing Power

In fact, however, the gun is being freely sold to civilians today, along with clearly problematic ammunition, through a variety of channels. What changed was precisely nothing.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan most likely gave some serious thought to his choice of weapons. With its high capacity magazine, extremely high velocity round, and cop-killing notoriety in Mexico, the FN FiveseveN was quite demonstrably an effective choice.

The reasons that American Handgunner referred to in 2000 became “obvious” last Thursday as Hasan efficiently murdered soldiers at Fort Hood in cold blood.

Beltway Snipers Chose Bushmaster AR -15 Clone

John Allen Muhammad was the senior member of the infamous Beltway sniper duo. His minor sidekick, Lee Boyd Malvo, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the shootings, which took place over three weeks in October 2002 in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Ten people were killed and three others critically injured, as well as three other crime-related deaths attributed to the pair in Louisiana and Alabama.

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2002 Washington Beltway Snipers Used a Bushmaster AR-15 Clone Like This Rifle

Muhammad, a veteran of the Persian Gulf war, picked a type of firearm with which he was undoubtedly familiar — a Bushmaster AR-15 type clone of the military’s M-16 assault rifle.  Bushmaster made its mark and fortune by cranking out AR-15 clones that beat the impossibly porous 1994 Semiautomatic Assault Weapons “Ban.”

AR-15 rifles of this type are as common in America as weed-whackers in spring at a suburban hardware store.  Here’s the point for slow-readers in this context:  Any gangster or would-be terrorist who can’t get his hands on one of these guns — whether you call it a “semiautomatic assault rifle” or a “thunder-stick” — or one of the the AK clones that have been dumped in the country latterly by Eastern European manufacturers and U.S. import-whores is simply in the wrong game.

Cho’s Choice — Ex-Lockmaker Gaston Glock’s High Capacity Model 19

Virginia Tech shooter Cho chose as his lead weapon the Glock Model 19, perhaps the archetype of the modern high-capacity semiautomatic pistol.  Easy to shoot, quick to reload, and demanding neither skill nor experience when shooting down unsuspecting innocents, the Glock Model 19 is also a favorite of gangsters and assorted thugs from Vancouver to the Yucatan.

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Cho's Choice for Mass Murder -- Glock Model 19

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

NOW ITS PERSONAL–MS-13 GANG LEADERS IN EL SALVADOR ORDERED HIT ON U.S. ICE AGENT IN NEW YORK

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on November 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm
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Leaders of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in El Salvador Ordered Hit on ICE Agent in New York

Now it’s definite.

And it’s personal.

Leaders of the transnational organized criminal gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) have upped the ante and ordered a hit on a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in New York.  An earlier plot to kill an LAPD gang detective, Frank Flores, was detailed in a RICO indictment earlier this year.  (See “The Plot to Whack a Cop” here.)

This case takes MS-13′s violent impudence to a federal level.

Tom Diaz, "No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement"

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

M16assaultrifle

M-16 Assault Rifle Was One Choice of MS-13 Gangsters to Kill Federal Agent

According to an affidavit filed in support of an arrest warrant, an MS-13 member specifically tasked to kill the ICE agent described the plot to federal agents.  The gangsters were looking for an AK-47 or M-16 assault rifle to do the job.  (“Affidavit In Support Of Arrest Warrant,”  United States v. Walter Alberto Torres, also known as “Duke,” United States District Court for the Eastern District Of New York, Case 1:09-mj-01055-RLM).

This is perhaps not surprising, given MS-13′s violent history — which is detailed in my book, No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (University of Michigan Press, 2009).

As Fairly Civil has noted before, there is no question that gangsters in the United States have access to the firepower to take on U.S. law enforcement agents in the same way that narcotraficantes go after Mexican law enforcement authorities.  The question has been:  would gang leadership risk bringing the fury of America’s cops and agents down on their heads?

Apparently they would.   (Although one experienced gang cop takes exception to this conclusion here.)

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AK-47 Was Other Choice of MS-13 Gangsters

It is worth noting that some gang experts familiar with the Mexican Mafia and their affiliated Sureno gangs insist that the Mexican Mafia made its decision a few years ago to target troublesome cops.

If there were any gloves left on, they are off now.

Here is an extended excerpt from the affidavit. (Under the circumstances, Fairly Civil does not include the name of the agent filing the affidavit.  The target is called “John Doe” in the affidavit.):

2. Over the past several years, my office has engaged in an extended, in-depth investigation of members of the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha 13, also known as “MS-13,” (hereinafter “MS-13″). The defendant WALTER ALBERTO TORRES DUKE, also known as “Duke,” is a self-admitted member of MS-13. MS-13 engages in acts and threats involving murder, attempted murder, robbery and extortion, in violation of the laws of the various states, including New York, and narcotics trafficking, in violation of Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 841 and 846.

3. MS-13 is comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador and other Central American countries, with members located throughout the United States and Central America. In the United States, major MS-13 chapters, or “cliques,” have been established in New York, Virginia, Texas, California and elsewhere. Following induction, members of MS-13 frequently demonstrate their membership by wearing clothing containing the colors blue and white and/or the words “MS” or “13.”

4. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 cliques have been established in various towns on Long Island, including Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt, Huntington, Brentwood and Islip, and neighborhoods in New York City including Jamaica, Flushing, Forest Hills and Far Rockaway. The cliques routinely hold meetings to plan criminal activity, and members pay dues into a clique treasury. The treasury funds are used to purchase firearms and ammunition and to promote other illegal activity. Inter-clique meetings, called “Universals,” are used to coordinate criminal activities among different cliques. Participation in criminal activity by a member, especially violence directed at rival gangs, increases the respect accorded to that member and is necessary to obtain a promotion to a senior or leadership position.

5. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 members are frequently involved in violent altercations with members of rival gangs such as the Salvadorans With Pride (“SWP”), the Latin Kings, the Bloods and the Netas. In the Eastern District of New York, MS-13 members have repeatedly carried out “drive-by” shootings and other violent attacks targeting members of rival gangs and others.

6. According to a cooperating witness (“CW”), members of MS-13 have been plotting to kill ICE Agent John Doe (“Agent Doe”), a leader in the investigation of MS-13, since at least December 2006. Specifically, CW stated that he, along with fellow MS-13 gang members in the Flushing clique of MS-13, plotted to murder Agent Doe with either a rifle or a shotgun, in retaliation for Agent Doe’s ongoing investigation of MS-13 in Queens, New York. CW stated that the gang was exceedingly angry at Agent Doe, whom MS-13 blamed for the incarceration of dozens of gang members in Queens, New York, and elsewhere.

7. A second MS-13 gang member, who subsequently pled guilty to racketeering-related charges in this District, admitted to participating in the same plot to kill Agent Doe in late 2006 and early 2007, during proffer sessions with the government.

8. On or about October 16, 2009, at approximately 9:30 p.m., detectives from the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) observed a group of several admitted MS-13 gang members walking on Northern Boulevard, near 150th Street, in Flushing, Queens, and approaching other pedestrians in an aggressive manner. Two detectives requested the individuals to stop, and requested them to take their hands out of their pockets. The individuals ultimately complied, and the detectives recognized four of the individuals as previously identified MS-13 gang members. A fifth individual, the defendant TORRES, was not known to the detectives at the time, but identified himself as a member of MS-13 and stated that he wished to provide information to the NYPD. None of the individuals, including the defendant, were taken into custody.

9. On or about October 20, 2009, defendant WALTER ALBERTO TORRES, also known as “Duke,” contacted detectives from the NYPD and requested a meeting, which was arranged for later that day. Prior to commencing the interview with the defendant, the defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, both orally and in writing. Defendant TORRES indicated that he understood and wished to waive his rights, and signed a written waiver to that effect.

10. During the interview, the defendant stated, in sum and substance and in part, that he has been a member of MS-13 since joining the gang in approximately 1998 in El Salvador. The defendant stated that he emigrated to the United States in 2001, at which point he joined an MS-13 clique in Springfield, Virginia. He later moved to Alexandria, Virginia.

11. The defendant further stated that he and other MS-13 gang members agreed to murder Agent Doe and engaged in planning the murder. In order to perpetrate the murder, the defendant stated that the gang was attempting to procure an AK-47 assault rifle or an M-16 machine gun, in anticipation that the bullets would penetrate the agent’s body armor. TORRES stated that the order for the murder came from gang leadership in El Salvador, and that he discussed the plan with MS-13 gang members as recently as August 2009.

12. During the October 20, 2009 interview, it was determined that there was an outstanding warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Specifically, the defendant is wanted in Fairfax, Virginia, for violation of probation following his guilty plea to grand larceny, a felony. The defendant was subsequently taken into custody.

13. On or about October 22, 2009, NYPD detectives and ICE agents again interviewed the defendant, this time at Riker’s Island. The defendant was advised of his Miranda rights, both orally and in writing. Defendant TORRES again indicated that he understood and wished to waive his rights, and signed a written waiver to that effect.

14. During the interview, the defendant described, among other things, multiple acts of violence he committed on behalf of MS-13. The defendant also described the plot to kill a federal agent, stating that he traveled to New York in or about August 2009 for the specific purpose of participating in the planning and execution of the murder plot. Information provided by the CW, as well as surveillance by law enforcement agents, corroborates the identity and gang membership of the coconspirators identified by TORRES. According to TORRES, he was in charge of putting the plan together, and he agreed with fellow gang members to participate in the ongoing plot to kill Agent Doe with a high powered rifle or similar weapon.

MS 13

Maybe All They Need is a Hug: MS-13 Gangsters Flash Devil's Horns

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