Tom Diaz

Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

ALEX SANCHEZ — ACCUSED SECRET SHOT-CALLER — SPEAKS TO HIS SUPPORTERS

In bad manners, Corruption, Crime, Cultural assassination, Drugs, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime on March 17, 2010 at 10:50 am

Alexander (Alex) Sanchez (AKA "Rebelde") Throwing Devils Horns Gang Sign

Alex Sanchez, the “anti-gang activist” who was accused last June of being a secret MS-13 gang shot-caller, is out on bail.  (For background details, start here and follow the links.)

Sanchez’s lawyer successfully beat back an Associated Press motion to make public the transcript of the star-chamber secret bail hearing conducted under the octogenarian aegis of  Federal Quirky Judge For Life Manuel Real.  (Go here for details.) His Honor agree to protect the spineless political hack(s) who testified on behalf of Sanchez.

Lesson: the public has no right to know anything and the First Amendment rights of a Free Press do not reach into the Realm of El Rey Real.

Meanwhile, Sanchez’s supporters cooked up this nicely done video in which The Mother Teresa of Gangsterdom turns his soulful eyes to you (woo-woo-woo) in thanks.  (Go here for link to the Simon & Garfunkel song, “Mrs. Robinson,”  to which the preceding parenthetical refers, kid.)

A nice touch in this video — which is making the rounds of the “immigration rights” movement — is the background music, a cover of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up (For Your Rights).” None of Sanchez’s bobbleheads want to get up, stand up, for their right, much less the right of the public, to know what went on behind locked doors in the chambers of Doktor Herr Schiedsrichter Real.

And completely forget about the rights of ordinary people to be free from gang violence.

As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote: poo-tee-wheet, poo-tee-wheet.  Joltin’ Joe — a “Real” role model — may be gone, but we still have Alex!

Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes

Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home …

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo …

Joltin' Joe -- Son of Immigrants ... Not a Gangster

DiMaggio was born in Martinez, California, the eighth of nine children born to immigrants from Italy, Giuseppe (1872–1949) and Rosalia (Mercurio) DiMaggio (1878–1951). He was delivered by a midwife identified on his birth certificate as Mrs. J. Pico. He was named after his father; “Paolo” was in honor of Giuseppe’s favorite saint, Saint Paul. The family moved to San Francisco, California when Joe was one year old.

Wikipedia

IT’S REAL — ALEX SANCHEZ GETS BAIL IN MS-13 RICO TRIAL — JUDGE CALLS IN TEAM OF OUTSIDE REFEREES TO HELP MAKE THE REPLAY CALL

In bad manners, Crime, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Police, politics, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime on January 14, 2010 at 2:02 am

Experts Testified Behind Judge Real's Closed Doors in Latest Sanchez Bail Hearing

Federal Judge Manuel L. Real has granted bail to Alex Sanchez, the former gang member turned anti-gang activist who has been accused in a federal racketeering (RICO) indictment of being a “secret shot-caller” for Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).  [To follow the trail of a series of earlier posts on this fascinating case, start here.  You will eventually land in the Land of Oz. ]

Here is how Celeste Fremon’s WitnessLA broke the news today:

Around 11:30, at the end of the closed hearing that began at 10 a.m. Alex Sanchez attorney Kerry Bensinger came out of the federal courtroom to talk to Sanchez family and a very, very small handful of supporters, whom he drew into a side room and broke the news. U.S. District Judge Manuel Real had granted Alex Sanchez bail.

One thing that can be said for the staggeringly quirky Real, he continues to surprise. This time the surprise was a good one for Sanchez and family.

The bail amount is set at $2 million. It is to be divided into $1 million in properties, $1 million in surities.

Since Sanchez supporters and family have already gathered $1.4 million in property, and $1 million in surities, “it’s only a matter of the paperwork,” said Monica Novoa, a Homies Unidos board member who is very close to the family and thus was in the room.

The extraordinary bail hearing was closed to the public.  It followed the filing of a mysterious sealed document by Sanchez’s lawyer, Kerry L. Bensinger.  Contents of that filing are not available on the public record.

Judge Real apparently felt the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals breathing down his back and called in a panel of independent gang experts to help him pin down the facts relevant to Sanchez’s bail request.  These have almost nothing to do with the defendant’s guilt or innocence, but whether he presents (1) a risk of flight, or (2) a threat to others.

According to papers filed in the federal district court, prosecutors made available three expert witnesses.  They were:

  • LAPD Capt. Justin Eisenberg, Commanding Officer of the Gangs and Narcotics Division.
  • Former federal prosecutor Bruce K. Riordan, now Director of Anti-Gang Operations for the L.A. City Attorney’s Office.  Riordan is also Chief of the Gang Division and Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.
  • FBI Supervisory Special Agent Robert W. Clark, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Office.

“Government’s Notice Re; Available Witnesses at Hearing Re: Detention of Alex Sanchez,” United States v. Alfaro, Central District of California, Docket No. CR-09-466-R, filed January 12, 2010.

NOTE:  This document — which was publicly available yesterday at the time this blog post was first written — has now been sealed.  Oh, well.  Good thing I printed it off!

It is possible that Bensinger’s mysterious sealed document was the defendant’s list of experts, some or all of whom are rumored to be politicians and public officials who may not have wanted to be identified as speaking on Sanchez’s behalf.  Is there such a thing as a spinal implant?  Or integrity transfusion?  Perhaps this is something that the indefatigable activist Tom Hayden — who is given to dark conspiratorial theories when a matter involves the government — can investigate and write about in the public interest.

In any event, Judge Real was demonstrably persuaded that Sanchez was entitled to be released.

At least some observers have speculated that prosecutors made a decision to ease back on the throttle regarding the Sanchez bail question.  The theory of this line of reasoning is that prosecutors realized that they had a big problem with the factual scenario they had relied on to implicate Sanchez in an intra-gang hit — to wit, the government may have incorrectly identified a key participant in a wiretapped phone call.

The call on the table, the reasoning continues, was either to continue pushing hard to keep Sanchez locked up and risk seeing the case taken away from Judge Real by the Ninth Circuit, or to reform the skirmish line and perhaps bring in some fresh troops.  A few new strategic calls may also be made.

Most interesting in the short run will be to see what, if anything, the Los Angeles Times prints tomorrow.  Any way you slice the Sanchez case, it is a world class story that any of the old style newspaper men would have given an arm for:  if Sanchez is truly innocent, he has been the victim of terrible mistreatment.  If he is guilty, he pulled off a scam that makes Ponzi scheme artist Bernie Madoff look like an amateur.

But the Times, one of the few interesting newspapers left in America, has studiously ignored the case to date.

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

UPDATE ON LOS ANGELES TIMES‘ COVERAGE

No surprise here.  No story.  Apparently, LA Times editors couldn’t find their butts in the dark with both hands and a flashlight.

But the on-line edition does have this suh-weet blast from the past:

I wanna take you high-er!

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.

 

 

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 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.

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

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.

sobieski3

At the Gates of Vienna

WRONG ZOMBIE? COULD MISTAKEN IDENTITY STRIKE TWICE IN TWO FEDERAL MS-13 CASES? BOTH INVOLVING ALEX SANCHEZ?

In bad manners, Crime, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on October 27, 2009 at 10:53 am
Sorry, Wrong Gangster?

Sorry, Wrong Gangster?

“’Curiouser and curiouser!’ Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). ’Now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).

Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland.

Pregnant MS-13 Gangster Brenda Paz Was Slashed to Death on the Banks of the Shenandoah River on the Morning of July 13, 2003 for "Ratting" on Fellow Gangsters

Pregnant MS-13 Gangster Brenda Paz Was Slashed to Death on the Banks of the Shenandoah River on the Morning of July 13, 2003 for "Ratting" on Fellow Gangsters

Here is a curious web of events, the common thread of which is one Alex Sanchez, aka “Rebelde.”

Sanchez is the putative “anti-gang activist” whom the government accused in a racketeering (RICO) indictment handed up in June 2009 by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles of being a fraud — acting in secret as a “shot-caller” while posing in public as the Mother Teresa of the Latino gang world.  (For details of the case, start here, and here and follow links).

Let us, gentle reader, go forth and explore this web together.

O, Shenandoah!

A horrific murder — typical of the work of members of the bloodthirsty transnational Latino gang, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) — was committed the morning of July 13, 2003.

On the banks of the gently flowing and historic Shenandoah River in Virgina, pregnant gangster Brenda Paz was brutally slashed to death by two of her fellow gangsters.  One of them, Ismael Juarez Cisneros, later told investigators, “I loved her with all my heart.”  Skeptics might be forgiven for thinking Cisneros — a deported and feloniously re-entered illegal alien from Mexico — had a curious manner of showing his affection.

Brenda’s offense?

“Ratting out” her fellow gangsters to federal authorities and a host of state and local police.  Paz was scheduled to testify in a federal murder trial, in which she was prepared to implicate as homicidal mastermind a Virginia-based MS-13 shot-caller, Denis “Conejo” (Rabbit) Rivera — not incidentally one of her former lovers.

[The sordid details of Brenda Paz's life and murder are summarized in my book, No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (University of Michigan Press, 2009).  No Boundaries also examines the genesis of MS-13 within the context of the broader history of Latino street gangs generally. Those interested in a book more narrowly focused specifically on Paz's tumultuous life and tragic death should read Samuel Logan's This is for the Mara Salvatrucha (New York: Hyperion 2009).]

In a December 2005 piece on the Paz murder, “The Fight Against MS-13,” the CBS 60 Minutes television program summed up the relevant events:

Not only does MS-13 conduct investigations of its own, but like a corporate organization, most cliques have regular meetings where they discuss recruiting, money and murder – what they call a “greenlight.”

According to witnesses, the gang took a unanimous vote in a hotel that Brenda should be assassinated. The next morning, she was lured away on a fishing trip with her new boyfriend, Oscar Grande, and her friend, Ismael Cisneros.

A former MS-13 member who is now in jail on an ammunition possession charge and asked 60 Minutes not to use his name, went with them.

“I was facing the river. You know, I was watching, I was enjoying the view. Was summertime. It was nice place. And they was behind me fixing the fishing pole. And I turn my face. I see for couple seconds that she was get stabbing. And I freak out and I run away,” he recalled.

Asked to confirm if he saw the stabbing of Brenda Paz, he answered “Yes.”

She was stabbed by her boyfriend Oscar Grande and Ismael Cisneros, who later confessed. He said she had called out “Why?” “Because you’re a rat” she was told. They stabbed her approximately 13 times.

MS-13 Gangster Ismael Cisneros Claimed He "Loved" Paz, Whom He Was Convicted of Slashing to Death

MS-13 Gangster Ismael Cisneros Claimed He "Loved" Paz, Whom He Was Convicted of Slashing to Death

Court records and other news reporting make clear beyond doubt that the anonymous “former MS-13″ gangster quoted on the 60 Minutes program was one Oscar Garcia-Orellana.  Garcia had either somehow slipped between the cracks and evaded a 1998 deportation order, or feloniously re-entered the United States after having been deported to El Salvador.

Garcia was the only defendant in the 2005 Paz murder case trial to take the stand.  Prosecutors claimed that he held a rope around Paz’s neck while the other two men slashed the life out of her and her unborn child.  Garcia admitted that he had been present at the time of the slaughter, but claimed that he did not know in advance that Cisneros and Grande planned to kill her.  He testified that instead of trying to save Paz, he had acted like a coward and run away when they started slashing her.  His lawyers maintained that although he had once been an active member of MS-13, he had drifted away from the gang.

One of the defense witnesses for Garcia was — the aforesaid “anti-gang activist” Alex “Rebelde” Sanchez.

The Expert Witness for the Defense

Here is an excerpt from the report of the Paz murder trial in the May 4, 2005 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper:

Jurors also heard from Alex Sanchez, a gang expert from Los Angeles and a former MS-13 member. He explained that many young people join gangs like MS-13 to mitigate abuse or neglect at home.

“They feel a sense of knowing that a bigger group will stand up for them, that they are not alone,” he said.

Sanchez also said most older gang members fall away from MS-13 once they reach their 30s, when younger members take leadership roles. His comments dovetailed with the assertions of Garcia’s lawyers, who claim he was a part-time gang member who was not involved in MS-13’s decision to kill Paz.

“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

Sorry, Wrong Member

But Alex Sanchez was by far not the only help Oscar Garcia got.

More important was a huge screw-up, belatedly admitted by government prosecutors.  Here is an excerpt from the May 11, 2005 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch (which, it ought to be noted, cleaned the Washington Post’s clock on the coverage of this case) detailing the blunder:

Lawyer Alexander Levay, representing 32-year-old Oscar Garcia-Orellana, charged that government lawyers manipulated evidence and pursued conspiracy charges against Garcia even after prosecutors recognized their indictment against him was seriously flawed.

“If we can’t count on the government to play fair and by the rules, then each of us are a little less free,” Levay said.

At issue are allegations central to prosecutors’ contention that Garcia conspired with the accused mastermind of the plot to kill Paz, 21-year-old Denis “Conejo” Rivera. At the outset of the case, prosecutors said a taped telephone call between Garcia and Rivera — in which Garcia purportedly informed Rivera that Paz was dead — would prove Garcia’s guilt.

But prosecutors were forced to abandon that assertion after Garcia’s lawyers showed that it was not the defendant’s voice on the call. Rather, Rivera apparently was talking about the Paz murder with another gang member, Napoleon Hernandez, who shares the same nickname as Garcia, “Gato.” Hernandez has been deported.

Prosecutors acknowledged their mistake earlier in the case. Out of the presence of the jury, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Walutes Jr. offered to withdraw the phone-call allegation from the indictment. But Garcia’s defense lawyers refused, hoping to show to the jury that the prosecution misstep made their entire case against Garcia suspect.

Levay said prosecutors had reason last year to suspect that they had the wrong Gato, but chose not to pursue the evidence.

“It didn’t fit their little scenario of the case, so they buried it,” Levay said. “The fact that they would mislead you into believing that the Gato on the phone was my client should be enough to find him not guilty.”

Levay’s attack on the prosecution case was part of a defense strategy to differentiate him from his fellow defendants.

“The indictment lumps everyone together, but the evidence distinguishes them again and again,” he said.

Oops.

Garcia walked — but right into the arms of federal agents, who arrested him on another felony charge of being illegally in possession of ammunition (by reason of his immigration status).  According to federal court records, he took a plea and was sentenced to a year and a day.  He has since presumably been deported to his native El Salvador [although the trail grows cold in official records, one might justifiably assume that the government kept track of him this time.]

His Other Left Foot

Fate takes strange turns in the gangster world.

This June Alex Sanchez found the shoe on the other foot — instead of witness for the defense, he became notorious defendant (for not the first time in his life).

In brief, Sanchez is accused of only pretending to have rejected the gang life and become a prominent anti-gang activist.  In fact, the government claims, Sanchez has all along been a secret leader of an MS-13 clique in Los Angeles.

More specifically, Sanchez is said to have directed the murder of a renegade gang member in El Salvador, one Walter Lacinos (aka “Camaron,” also sometimes spelled “Cameron”).

Prosecutors persuaded a federal magistrate to detain Sanchez when he was arrested.  The issue in a detention proceeding is not guilt, but the risk of flight.  The strength of the government’s detention case was four wiretapped phone calls in which — according to the analysis of Los Angeles Police Department Detective and MS-13 expert Frank Flores — Sanchez allegedly directed one Juan Bonilla (aka “Zombie”) to whack Camaron.

Judge Manuel L. Real promptly confirmed the magistrate’s decision and set a new bail (detention) hearing for last Monday, October 19, 2009.

According to the court’s one page of clinical minutes, the hearing before Judge Manuel L. Real lasted one hour and eighteen minutes.  (Criminal Minutes — General, “Further Hearing re: Defendant’s Application for Review/Reconsideration of Detention Order,” Case No. CR-09-466-R).

Here is what happened, according to the court’s minutes:

Detective Frank Flores is called, sworn and testifies.

Exhibits are identified.

The Court hears arguments of counsel.

For reasons stated, the Court orders the continued detention of defendant.

More or less, open and shut.  Here is a nice, balanced account from LA Weekly about the hearing.

But according to the social justice website WitnessLA, something fascinating also happened.  And it is no doubt this something that prompted Alex Sanchez’s court-appointed lawyer, Kerry Bensinger, to file an interlocutory appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the detention order.  Courts of appeal generally do not fiddle with such fact-based, pre-trial rulings of lower courts, but the 9th Circuit is said to have reversed Judge Real at an exceptional rate and to be “on his case.”

Sorry, Wrong Member, Redux

Alex Sanchez (WitnessLA Illustration)

Alex Sanchez (WitnessLA Illustration)

Miracle of miracles, Sanchez’s defense lawyer,  Bensinger, claimed to have found in the Sanchez case precisely the flaw that brought down the government’s case against Oscar Garcia-Orellana.  Namely, the mistaken identification of a party to a key wiretapped phone conversation!

If there were a convenience store for defense tactics, this one would be right up at the front of the MS-13 impulse shopping shelf!

The whole thing reminds me of a common street defense I encountered during my brief tenure as a defense lawyer for indigent defendants in Washington, D.C. some years ago.  It was commonly known as “the Tyrone defense” and was more or less automatically uttered by any miscreant collared with incriminating swag in hand, but not actually witnessed ripping the swag off.

“I was just standing here when my boy came by and he handed it to me,”  the tarnished angel would state indignantly.  And who would that have been?  “I don’t know.  We just call him ‘Tyrone.'”  Naturally, the ubiquitous Tyrone could never be found.

And, yes, I actually saw the “Tyrone defense” work in at least one poorly “papered” case.

But I digress.

Passing curious, no, this amazing coincidence?  Perhaps beyond strange and approaching incredible?

Here is the self-admittedly and vigorously pro-Sanchez WitnessLA’s description of the argument, which its editor, Celeste Fremon has headlined, “Arresting Alex Sanchez: Part 6: The Judge Real Show.”  (Some among the social justice crowd — but most assuredly not including Ms. Fremon, who is among other things a professor of journalism and who loves her city, including whatever warts she perceives in the LAPD — play a sort of ideological whack-a-mole on this case alternating between whacking Judge Real as some kind of geriatric nut case, the LAPD as a vengeful racist gang determined to “get” Sanchez, and the FBI/Department of Justice as dull-witted, compliant tools of the slavering LA police establishment.  Gangsters, on the other hand, generally conduct themselves with the comportment of wronged angels, who would never lie to, manipulate, or exploit the good intentions of those who come bearing breviaries of redemption.  For the archetypal case of whackfrenzy, see usual suspect Tom Hayden’s piece beamed down from the empyrean to usual outlet The Nation.  )

But I digress again!  Here is the WitnessLA excerpt:

One of the issues that [attorney Kerry] Bensinger brought up during the cross examination was his contention that Flores completely and crucially misidentified a person on one of the calls, a guy with the street name of Zombie. According to Flores, the person, “Zombie,” on the phone call was also the person who was eventually arrested for the murder of Cameron, a murder that Sanchez had allegedly ordered during the last of the four phone calls that are the center of the prosecution’s case.

Yet, according to Bensinger, the guy called “Zombie” on the call was a very different fellow from Juan Bonilla, the killer, who is also called Zombie.

(I know this nickname business is dizzying, but try to stay with me here.)

Evidently there are a number of Zombies in and around the local MS-13 cliques—which is common in gangs. There might be a guy with the nickname of Zombie. But there may also be Lil’ Zombie…..Big Zombie….and heaven knows what other permutation of the nickname Zombie (or Sleepy or Dreamer or P’Nut or Snyper or Loco or…..you get the picture).

Anyway it seems that Bensinger’s Zombie (whom we’ll randomly designate as Zombie 2) dropped a whole lot of identifiers during the course of the long conversation, like references to several family members and—helpfully—his actual name.

With the tiniest amount of police work Flores could have verified which Zombie he had on this call—since it was so important to his case.

When asked if he did any of that follow-up investigation, Flores admitted that he had not. When Bensinger asked why, Flores said that he didn’t need to do any further checking because he knew it was Zombie/Juan on the call. (The exchange between Flores and Bensinger was longer than I am portraying here.) And how did the detective know he had the right Zombie in the face of fairly convincing evidence to the contrary? Flores did not elucidate.

However, what Flores did say is that Zombie/Juan was one of the feds’ informants, that after he was arrested for Cameron’s murder, he began singing like a bird and not only confessed to the killing himself, he also fingered Alex Sanchez and said that Sanchez told him on the phone to kill Cameron. [Fairly Civil's emphasis.]

It would be an understatement to say that WitnessLA is skeptical of the government’s position, notwithstanding its own report of Flores’s testimony that “Zombie/Juan was one of the feds’ informants, that after he was arrested for Cameron’s murder, he began singing like a bird and not only confessed to the killing himself, he also fingered Alex Sanchez and said that Sanchez told him on the phone to kill Cameron.”

Unfortunately, the transcript of this latest detention hearing is not available as of this writing.  Would that it were, because some observers who were present and have read the above wonder whether everyone was on the same planet.   It is hard, nay impossible, to know what Detective Flores actually said.

Whack!

In any case, some would say that a singing bird (or rat) in hand — a federal informant who identifies himself as the person on  the phone receiving orders — pretty well would establish who was on the other end of the phone line.  If “Zombie/Juan” says it was he….?  But Zombie/Juan/Whoever apparently uttered words that raise some doubt about who he actually was.

Not enough doubt, however, to persuade Judge Real.

Whack!  Whack!

In between blows, it should be noted that gangsters often talk in elliptical ways when on the telephone or in circumstances in which they think someone else might be listening.  For example, in No Boundaries I describe how convicted 18th Street gang hit-man Anthony “Coco” Zaragoza sometimes referred to himself in the third person and sometimes adopted “code” pseudonyms for himself in the course of conversations that were being wiretapped by the FBI.  One of the investigative challenges for law enforcement is breaking through and interpreting the fog of jargon, crude codes, and such attempts at deception on the part of gangland’s little angels.  What seems straightforward to, say, a social justice critic, may have an entirely different meaning to the gangsters involved.

In any event, this is perhaps an appropriate moment to recall the following observation, reported in an earlier Fairly Civil posting:

Experienced gang prosecutors and investigators who are not related to or part of the Sanchez case have told me [first person code for Fairly Civil] that this sort of “back and forth” or what is known as the “battle of the transcripts” is fairly typical of the early stages of a big racketeering case — particularly when you have a case that relies on transcripts that require translation — and that it is best at this stage to keep an open mind and not jump to conclusions but rather to follow the evidence until the “back and forth” sorts itself out.

At this stage it appears to these observers that too many people are jumping to conclusions and making personal attacks (on both sides) when the real issues are evidence-based — namely, “First, “what precisely do the transcripts say?” Then, once that is established, second, “Now that we know what the transcripts say, what exactly does that mean?”

Curiouser and curiouser.

Whack!  Whack!  Whack!

23a_cheshire_cat

The Cheshire Cat

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

`I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.

`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.

CALLING CALIFORNIA: “MEDICAL MARIJUANA” IS A FRAUD — YOU HAVE THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS

In bad manners, Corruption, Crime, Cultural assassination, Drugs, Marijuana Debate, politics on October 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm
Inhaling the Smoke of This Weeds Is Supposed to be Good for What Ails You?  Or Are its Dispensers Just a Front for More of the Same Criminal Trafficking in a Banned Drug?

Inhaling the Smoke of This Weed Is Supposed to be Good for What Ails You? Or Are its Dispensers Just a Front for More of the Same Criminal Trafficking in a Banned Drug?

This piece from Charles Lane’s Washington Post blog provides a nice, cold-eyed summary, making [my words here] the point:  “Medical marijuana” is a fraud and the Obama administration is ducking the issue:  Should we flat-out legalize this drug, or should we tolerate and maybe even encourage (as do the Holder guidelines on weed) the continued hypocrisy of phony “medicinal” uses.

I originally thought the new Obama/Holder weed guidelines were an elegant solution:  stand back and let the states develop policy and reach a national consensus.  I now see them as a political base-holding confection.  The states, if California is an example, and it is, are developing neither policy nor consensus.  They are waddling along with a sick and corrosive system that is partially legal and overwhelmingly criminal, following a lobby that intensely wants every American to light up and enjoy, meanwhile rewarding criminal gangsters with a facade of legality.

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Obama Administration's "Medical Marijuana" Tolerance Guidelines

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Obama Administration's "Medical Marijuana" Tolerance Guidelines

And where is the Washington “law enforcement establishment” — the suits di suits — on this?  Neutered and silent, complicit, reminding one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Dereliction of Duty when another Democratic President, Lyndon B. Johnson, used his forceful political persona to send “American boys” to fight a war he said they never would.  Nice backdrops for media conferences.

The original Post blog site from which this excerpt is taken contains data on medical surveys about how phony the so-called “medicinal” properties, at least as administered through a cigarette with no production standards, are.

‘Medical marijuana’ is a Trojan horse

…decriminalization of marijuana is worth debating. I have no objection to letting AIDS patients and other truly desperately ill people smoke marijuana if it makes them feel better. I have no objection to the administration of THC, pot’s active ingredient, in properly tested and dosed pharmaceuticals. What I do object to, strongly, is the claim that smoked marijuana is some sort of wonder cure with a multiplicity of proven, but officially repressed, therapeutic uses.
….
Why does this bug me so much? It always bugs me when some group of true believers tries to foist its views on the public in the guise of science (e.g., “creation science”). This is especially pernicious when it involves selling phony remedies for real diseases (or real drugs for phony diseases)…
….
“Medical marijuana” is obviously a Trojan horse for legalization of pot as a recreational drug. In a democracy, people should pursue their policy objectives openly, not under false pretenses. In that respect, I thought that the attorney general created a certain amount of inevitable confusion when he announced his non-prosecution policy toward consumers and sellers of pot under state “medical marijuana” laws, while continuing to pursue large-scale traffickers and growers. Is marijuana a sometimes-therapeutic substance, as the AG implied by referring to “medical marijuana” smokers as “patients,” and those who provide pot to them as “caregivers” following “treatment regimens?” Or does pot have “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” as federal law provides — and, I would add, the evidence suggests? To be sure, the Justice Department’s directive to prosecutors focused on individuals with “cancer or other serious illnesses” who are complying with state law. But since many people who don’t have cancer or anything close to it are getting high under medical pretenses, plenty of ambiguity remains.

What Lane does not get into here is how the present phony, runaway “medical marijuana” system simply drives up demand — “patients” are pouring out of the woodwork because, “Hey, dude, it’s legal!” — which demand is met not by doctors and laboratory technicians in white coats ensuring a uniform product free of impurities, but criminal networks large and small selling illicitly grown, insecticide-laced, who-knows-what weed.  Fairly Civil was told during a visit to California that the bigger criminal networks, including the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations, are cranking up to help meet the supply, and even forcing out those beloved hippy pot farmers whose righteous sense of  “serving” the self-medication community disappears into a liquid stream down the leg when confronted with DTO or gangster firepower.

Weed and Weapons In Oregon

Weed and Weapons In Oregon

Nothing stops a small-time farmer like looking down the barrel of a Kalashnikov clone.

Here’s another point I heard from the parent of a 16-year old boy.  Yes, he’s smoking, and guess where he gets his weed?  From the children of other parents who procure their “legal” drugs at “medical marijuana” shops on jacked-up licenses, and then dispense it to their own medically-needy children.  These aren’t East L.A. stereotypes, these are whatever passes for upper middle class in L.A.  See, they would rather “know” where their kids are getting their drugs (i.e., from their own trendy parents) than worry about some “dealer” seducing them.  How sick and disgusting is that?  The parent-victim of this system that I talked to doesn’t want her son smoking, but she is caught right smack between the do-gooders and the traffickers.

This is exactly an example of the kind of evil some state and local law enforcement personnel understand and want to shut down.  But, for some reason, many politicians in California want to actually encourage and expand this criminal shambles and resist cleaning it up.  Cui bono?

Ironic, but this state may fast be sliding into No Country for Either Old Hippies or Old Values….If you like your budget system, you’re gonna love where this is going.

Let's See:  Smoking Tobacco is a Public Health Hazard.  Smoking Marijuana is Medicinal?  Oh-h-kay...

Let's See: Smoking Tobacco is a Public Health Hazard. Smoking Marijuana is Medicinal? Oh-h-kay...

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