Oct 11 2013

Former Boston FBI chief pleads guilty in ethics case

Dr. Q

Last week, the Associated Press reported this story:

A retired FBI official who once supervised all of the agency’s U.S. criminal probes and ran its Boston office pleaded guilty to an ethics charge Thursday following an agreement that recommends a $15,000 fine but no prison time.

Kenneth Kaiser Jr. faces sentencing in December in federal court in Boston, where a judge released him on his own recognizance following his plea to the misdemeanor charge of trying to influence FBI agents investigating the private company he was working for within a year of his 2009 retirement from the agency.

An ethics law prohibits senior executive branch personnel from professional contact with the agency they were employed by for one year after leaving government service.

Prosecutors have said that Kaiser took a consulting job with LocatePlus Holdings Corp. on the day he retired from the FBI to conduct an internal probe into misconduct by two former company executives and to help sell the company’s products and services to the government.

Authorities said the FBI was investigating a securities fraud case involving the two executives. They said Kaiser tried to expedite the agency’s investigation, lobbied for the indictment of the two executives and encouraged the FBI to investigate potential wrongdoing by a third party.

Prosecutors also said Kaiser made improper contact with the Boston FBI office after a Gloucester businessman hired him to investigate a threatening letter he’d received.

Read the rest of this story here.

May 15 2013

Harvey Silverglate: Protecting yourself from FBI manipulation

Dr. Q

This video of Boston-based attorney Harvey Silverglate explaining what to do if the FBI wants to interview you was first published a few years ago, but it’s been getting shared quite a bit recently. The video is definitely worth watching, so I decided to add it to the “Know your rights” page.

I also recommend Silverglate’s recent editorial in The Boston Globe which touches on many of the same issues as the video.

Jan 23 2012

News Roundup (Jan 16 – 22)

Dr. Q

Here are the stories I tracked this past week:

  • Carlos Miller reports that Hector Nunez, the man from the Haverhill who uploaded the video that was recently featured on this site, received another visit from the police. You can see his video of this second visit here:

  • The Cape Cod Times reports that Somerville police officer Ariel Colazzo and Cambridge police officer Christopher Borum are both facing assault and battery charges after allegedly beating a DJ at a convention for drug officers. The DJ alleges that he was beat by at least six police officers, but has had trouble identifying them.
  • Boston.com reports that the Boston Police department has fired an officer for excessive force and lying during an investigation. Officer David C. Williams was fired for tackling and using a chokehold on a corrections officer who recorded him during a traffic stop. Williams had been fired in 1998 for beating an undercover police officer, but was reinstated in 2005 after successfully appealing his firing. He plans to try to get his job back for a second time using an arbitration process.
  • The Connecticut Post and Associated Press report that Dr. Frank Evangelista, Connecticut’s associate state medical examiner, is on trial for perjury in Massachusetts. Evangelista is accused of presenting conflicting testimony in two related murder trials while he was a medical examiner in Massachusetts. Evangelista was indicted in Plymouth County but will be prosecuted by the Bristol County DA’s office to avoid a conflict of interest.
  • NECN reports that a Weymouth police dispatcher is on trial for pulling a gun on two teenagers and threatening them in a parking lot outside her apartment while off-duty. The dispatcher, Kristen Hart, claims she believed the two teens were burglarizing cars. In fact, one of the teens lived in the apartment building and the second was visiting.
  • The Republican reports that a male pedestrian was hit by a Holyoke police cruiser. Police have yet to identify the officer who hit the pedestrian, but say they are investigating the incident.
  • The Daily Items reports that a state police officer who was arrested in Saugus last year was found guilty of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, but avoided a OUI conviction. The Clerk Magistrate said that there wasn’t enough evidence for the OUI charge partly because the arresting officer didn’t perform a sobriety test at the time of arrest. You can read an old post I wrote about this case I here.
  • Boston.com reports that the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld million dollar judgments in favor of families of victims of gangster “Whitey” Bulger. The Court found the federal government liable for the deaths due to the FBI’s corrupt relationship with Bulger.

Sep 30 2011

The “terror plot” that wasn’t

Dr. Q

Rezwan Ferdaus

Two days ago, FBI agents arrested 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus on terrorism charges in Framingham. Ferdaus, a resident of Ashland, stands accused of plotting to wage “jihad” against the U.S government and “kafirs” (i.e., non-believers) by providing “material support” to Al-Qaeda and by attacking the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol Building.

Ferdaus allegedly planned to fill remote-controlled model airplanes with plastic explosives and fly them into the two buildings using GPS tracking devices. After the explosives went off, Ferdaus planned to have two small teams of men go on shooting sprees at the buildings with AK-47s. The “material support” charge against Ferdaus stems from the fact that he also allegedly modified several mobile phones so that they would send an electrical signal through a wire when called. The electricity could apparently be used to remotely detonate improvised explosives devices if one of the phones was properly attached to one.

Pretty scary stuff, isn’t it? Who would have thought that a terrorist mastermind could possibly be lurking in Ashland, a small Massachusetts town with a population of just 16,593? “Things like this make you wonder if you ever really know your neighbors, or anyone else for that matter,” mused MetroWest Daily News columnist Julia Spitz.

And yet, upon closer inspection, Ferdaus’s plot reveals itself to be nothing but smoke and mirrors. Ferdaus, as it turns out, had no connections to actual terrorists, none of the skills necessary to pull off the attack he was planning, no access to the weapons necessary for the plot, and no money to buy the necessary supplies. The only people involved in the plot other than Ferdaus were two anonymous undercover FBI agents and an anonymous “cooperating witness” (i.e., an informant) who posed as terrorists to convince Ferdaus to carry out the plot. All the guns, explosives, and model airplanes were directly provided by or indirectly paid for by the FBI (using your tax money, of course). The FBI even paid for the storage space that Ferdaus was using to stockpile the items and helped Ferdaus get to Washington D.C. to do “surveillance” of the buildings he planned to attack. None of the phones Ferdaus modified were ever used to detonate explosives nor did they ever end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda members.

Carmen M. Ortiz, the United States attorney in Boston, actually went so far as to say in a public statement that “The public was never in danger from the explosive devices.”

What’s more, it appears to be very unlikely that Ferdaus’s plan would have worked if he had been given a chance to try putting it into action. According to an Associated Press article, “Counterterrorism experts and model-aircraft hobbyists said it would be nearly impossible to inflict large-scale damage of the sort Ferdaus allegedly envisioned using model planes. The aircraft are too small, can’t carry enough explosives and are too tricky to fly, they said.”

FBI agents spending months trying to goad an individual into committing a terrorist attack that they otherwise would not have the means to carry out is not a new phenomenon. As Glenn Greenwald summarizes on his Salon.com blog:

Time and again, the FBI concocts a Terrorist attack, infiltrates Muslim communities in order to find recruits, persuades them to perpetrate the attack, supplies them with the money, weapons and know-how they need to carry it out — only to heroically jump in at the last moment, arrest the would-be perpetrators whom the FBI converted, and save a grateful nation from the plot manufactured by the FBI.

Last year, the FBI subjected 19-year-old Somali-American Mohamed Osman Mohamud to months of encouragement, support and money and convinced him to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon, only to arrest him at the last moment and then issue a Press Release boasting of its success.  In late 2009, the FBI persuaded and enabled Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, a 19-year old Jordanian citizen, to place a fake bomb at a Dallas skyscraper and separately convinced Farooque Ahmed, a 34-year-old naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan, to bomb the Washington Metro.  And now, the FBI has yet again saved us all from its own Terrorist plot by arresting 26-year-old American citizen Rezwan Ferdaus after having spent months providing him with the plans and materials to attack the Pentagon, American troops in Iraq, and possibly the Capitol Building using “remote-controlled” model airplanes carrying explosives.

None of these cases entail the FBI’s learning of an actual plot and then infiltrating it to stop it.  They all involve the FBI’s purposely seeking out Muslims (typically young and impressionable ones) whom they think harbor animosity toward the U.S. and who therefore can be induced to launch an attack despite having never taken even a single step toward doing so before the FBI targeted them.  Each time the FBI announces it has disrupted its own plot, press coverage is predictably hysterical (new Homegrown Terrorist caught!), fear levels predictably rise, and new security measures are often implemented in response…

— Glenn Greenwald, “The FBI again thwarts its own Terror plot,” Salon, September 29, 2011

Don’t get me wrong: if the allegations against Ferdaus are accurate, then he’s a reprehensible individual and I would never try to suggest otherwise. But time and resources are limited and we would be much safer if that time and those resources were spent pursuing people who actually pose a threat to the public.

There are millions of violent crimes and property crimes in the United States that go unsolved every year. If there are really so few people who have both the motivation and means to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States that the FBI actually has to manufacture its own terrorist plots in order to make terrorism arrests, then it’s time for the government to stop spending so much money on unnecessary “counter-terrorism” programs and instead invest it in apprehending suspects for some of these unsolved crimes that actually affect our society.

You can download the criminal complaint against Rezwan Ferdaus here (.pdf format) or read it in the Scribd embed below:

Complaint Affidavit

Sep 28 2011

Former corrections officer sentenced in heroin smuggling case

Dr. Q

Ronald P. McGinn, a former corrections officer at the MCI-Norfolk jail, was sentenced yesterday after pleading guilty in a federal court to possession of heroin with intent to distribute.

The FBI began investigating the case after an officer from the Massachusetts Department of Corrections tipped them off that someone was smuggling items into the jail. According to the FBI’s press release, the prosecutor for the case said during an earlier court hearing that McGinn

… was involved in a scheme to smuggle heroin into MCI-Norfolk with the intent to sell it to inmates. In a consensually recorded meeting with an undercover agent, as well as in several text messages between the two, McGinn outlined the amounts he would smuggle into the prison as well as the fee he would charge to do so. During the meeting, McGinn also discussed his prior success in smuggling items into the prison.

McGinn was arrested last April while in possession of about 29 grams of heroin.

McGinn was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release.

Sep 8 2011

Former Revere officer pleads guilty to lying to the FBI

Dr. Q

FBI surveillance photo of Todd Randall

According to The Boston Globe, former Revere Police Officer Todd Randall pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of lying to the FBI. The charge against the officer stemmed from a January, 2010 sting operation in which he was accused of accepting a $200 bribe then lying about it to the FBI when questioned.

Here’s how the Department of Justice described the sting in a press release from earlier this year:

TODD RANDALL, 40, of Revere, was charged in a criminal complaint with providing materially false statements and representations to the FBI regarding an ongoing public corruption investigation.

The complaint alleges that on January 22, 2010, RANDALL, a City of Revere police officer, met with an FBI cooperating witness (CW) and accepted $200 in exchange for RANDALL’s assistance with a criminal case pending in Chelsea District Court. On January 22, FBI agents observed RANDALL, who was on duty, in a police uniform, and operating a marked Revere police cruiser, as he traveled to the home of the CW in Everett. RANDALL was observed and photographed as he exited the police cruiser and entered the home of the CW.

While inside the home of the CW, RANDALL accepted $200 in FBI funds from the CW and then explained the efforts he would make to compromise a pending criminal case in Chelsea District Court for a friend of the CW. The interaction between the CW and RANDALL, including the exchange of $200, was memorialized on film through the use of a concealed audio and video recording device previously installed by the FBI in the home of the CW.

On March 14, 2011, RANDALL was interviewed by the FBI who disclosed that they were investigating information that RANDALL had assisted the CW’s friend with a court case. RANDALL denied knowing the CW or the CW’s friend. Agents then explained to RANDALL that the FBI had received information that RANDALL had been to the CW’s house while operating a police cruiser. RANDALL denied being present at the home of the CW. RANDALL was then asked if he had ever accepted money for a court case from the CW on behalf of a third individual. RANDALL denied accepting any money from the CW. Agents then explained to RANDALL that withholding information or lying to the interviewing agents was a violation of federal law and that he could be prosecuted. RANDALL once again denied ever being present at the CW’s house. Agents then specifically asked RANDALL whether he accepted $200 from the CW for his assistance with a court case. RANDALL again denied accepting money from the CW. Once again, agents explained to RANDALL that lying to the interviewing agents was a federal crime for which he could be prosecuted.

RANDALL replied that he understood and stated, “I have no reason to lie to ya fellas.”

Agents again asked RANDALL if he had ever been present at the Everett home of the CW. RANDALL denied that he had been present at the home of the CW. Agents then asked RANDALL, hypothetically, if the FBI possessed a photo of a uniformed Revere police officer at the Everett home of the CW, could RANDALL be the officer in the photo. RANDALL denied being at the home of the CW and then stated in disbelief that “if there is a photo of me I’d like to see it.”

“Revere Police Officer Charged with Lying to the FBI,” Department of Justice, April 12, 2011

Randall has not been sentenced yet, but the DOJ’s press release indicates that he “faces up to five years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.”