Responding to mounting criticism of the Justice Department’s decision to spy on journalists, President Obama ordered a review of the procedures of investigating reporters, The New York Times reports.
Among the concerns, Obama said, is the potential for the probes to discourage investigative reporting.
“Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs,” Obama said in a wide-ranging address on counterterrorism policy Thursday. “Our focus must be on those who break the law.”
Obama asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review the issue and return with results by July 12.
Not much is known about the janitor charged Thursday with sending ricin-laced to a federal judge in Washington state.
According to the Washington Post, Matthew Ryan Buquet is a short, balding 37-year-old and a registered sex offender.
“He sticks to himself,” Scott Ward, who lives across the hall from Buquet’s apartment, told the Washington Post. “He doesn’t talk, really. He’s kind of quiet.”
Buquet became a registered sex offender after being convicted in 1998 of molesting a 10-year-old girl. He also served 18 months in prison.
Abdulbaki Todashev says his son loved life in America and would never kill anyone.
His son, Ibragim Todashev, was fatally shot in his Orlando apartment by an FBI agent while being questioned about his ties to Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
“I absolutely refuse to believe my son could have attacked a policeman, to be quite correct, several policemen,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Los Angeles Times Chechnya.
The FBI, he insisted, “killed him for nothing.”
But federal authorities believe Ibragim Todashev may have been involved in a triple shooting with Tsaraev prior to the marathon bombing.
WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.
The disclosure of the attorney general’s role came as President Barack Obama, in a major speech on his counterterrorism policy, said Holder had agreed to review Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists.
“I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” Obama said. “Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.”
Rosen, who has not been charged in the case, was nonetheless the target of a search warrant that enabled Justice Department investigators to secretly seize his private emails.
To read full story click here.
OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST
- Cleveland FBI Lends Hand to Two Communities in Search for Missing People
- FBI Investigates Agent’s Shooting Death of Chechen in Florida Questioning
- FBI Sting Nabs Philadelphia Narcotics Office on Charges He Stole from Suspected Dealer
- Anitwar.com Sues FBI for Surveillance Records of the Website
- Border Patrol Honors Fallen Heroes in El Paso
DETROIT — Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, clad in a tan, khaki prison outfit, entered the federal courtroom in handcuffs and with a smile Thursday morning. He left about 40 minutes later, escorted in handcuffs and with a new court appointed attorney.
Kilpatrick, who was uncuffed during the proceedings, appeared before U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds to ask to fire attorney James Thomas.
Edmunds agreed and appointed veteran attorney Harold Gurewitz, a former federal prosecutor who had assisted part time in Killpatrick’s defense during trial. Kilpatrick complained that Thomas hadn’t assisted him in motions and hadn’t represented him well during trial.
“I like Harold,” Kilpatrick said, standing at the podium, Gurewitz and Thomas by his side.
It was Kilpatrick’s first court appearance since being convicted March 11 of 24 public corruption and tax counts in one of the sadder Detroit tales in recent years involving a high-profile figure. He’s been in prison in Milan ever since, awaiting sentencing, just like his co-defendant Bobby Ferguson.
His father Bernard Kilpatrick, who was convicted of tax counts in the trial, sat in the gallery. He is the only one of three defendants free pending sentencing.
To read more click here.
DETROIT – Prosecutors want disgraced ex-Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway to serve time behind bars for bank fraud.
In a sentencing memorandum filed Thursday in federal court, the U.S. Attorney’s office recommended that Hathaway serve 12 to 18 months under the sentencing guidelines. Sentencing is set for Tuesday at 2 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor.
“Such a sentence would serve to adequately punish the defendant for her methodical, thoughtful, and sophisticated criminal conduct that spanned over two years and caused approximately $100,000 in losses to a financial institution,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel L. Lemisch and Patrick Hurford wrote. “In addition, this sentence would deter the defendant and others from future criminal conduct and, in particular, economic crime.”
Hathaway, 58, pleaded guilty in January to a real estate scheme in which she transferred properties out of her name to make it look as if she had less assets, all so she could get a short sale on her Grosse Pointe Park home and get out of $600,000 she owed the bank, ING Direct. The original mortgage was $1.4 million and the home was sold for $800,000 in the short sale.
Under the short sale, the loss to the bank was approximately $100,000, according to the government. The government noted that she did bring $10,000 to the closing for the short sale as a closing fee, bringing the actual loss to $90,000.
To read the full story click here.
A Chechen immigrant fatally shot by an FBI agent in Florida had connections to one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, the Associated Press reports.
Ibragim Todashev has a lot in common with bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed during a shootout with police. He has Chechen roots, experience with mixed martial arts and lived in Massachusetts.
The AP wrote that Todashev may have been involved with a triple murder in which Tsaraev is emerging as a suspect.
What remains unclear is why Todashev was shot.
A 19-year-old man Guatemalan pleaded guilty Wednesday to illegally crossing the U.S. border and stabbing a Border Patrol dog in the neck, the Associated Press reports.
Luis Gilberto Cruz-Solis could be sentenced up to a year in prison next month.
He pleaded guilty to willfully and maliciously harming a police animal and to entering the U.S. illegally.
The Border Patrol dog, Dinie, was hiding in some brush while investigating people crossing the border illegally, the AP wrote.
The dog survived.
A man believed to be behind a pair of letters containing the deadly poison ricin was arrested by FBI agents Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.
Authorities identified the suspect as Matthew Ryan Buquet, 37.
“Our coordinated team acted swiftly to resolve a potentially dangerous situation, and continues working tirelessly around the clock to investigate the origin of the letters and to address any remaining, potential risks,” Laura Laughlin, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle office, said in a statement.
Buquet pleaded not guilty Wednesday to mailing a threatening communication.
Steve Neavling ticklethewire.com
FBI Agent Vicki Anderson explains what it was like to witness Amanda Berry’s homecoming after years of captivity.
“It was unbelievable,” Anderson told News Channel 5. “The emotions that everybody felt … sometimes people sit back and say, ‘Wait, law enforcement have emotions about these things.’”
Berry, 27, was rescued May 6 from a Cleveland home where she, her 6-year-old daughter and two other women were held captive and sexually assaulted.
“I think there were tears of joy,” Anderson said of the homecoming. I think everybody’s eyes were misty … she was hugging everybody and she was a little quiet. She was just overwhelmed.”
Border Patrol Agent Kris Gungon was found dead in a waterfall while at a family vacation in Hawaii with his family, the U-T San Diego reports.
The 31-year-old agent was vacationing with his wife and their infant daughter, U-T San Diego wrote.
The four-year Border Patrol veteran, who was assigned to the El Centro station, was found unconscious Sunday afternoon
Gungon was found 25-feet under water in a pond, U-T San Diego reported.
OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST
- Justice Department: No Banks Are ‘Too Big” for Jail, Defends Position on White-Collar Crime
- ATF Accused of Hampering Investigation of West Fertilizer Company Plant in Texas
- Boston Gets 60% Funding Increase for Homeland Security
- ATF Lends Hand in Investigation of Fatal 6-Alarm Fire in Dallas
- FBI Warns About Legal Explosive That Could Be Used by Criminals
Consider this our Top 6 list of need-to-know facts on social welfare nonprofits, also known as dark money groups because they don’t have to disclose their donors. The groups poured more than $256 million into the 2012 federal elections.
A century ago, Congress created a tax exemption for social welfare nonprofits. The statute defining the groups says they are supposed to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.” But in 1959, the regulators interpreted the “exclusively” part of the statute to mean groups had to be “primarily” engaged in enhancing social welfare. This later opened the door to political spending.
So what does “primarily” mean? It’s not clear. The IRS has said it uses a “facts and circumstances” test to say whether a group mostly works to benefit the community or not. In short: If a group walks and talks like a social welfare nonprofit, then it’s a social welfare nonprofit.
This deliberate vagueness has led some groups to say that “primarily” simply means they must spend 51 percent of their money on a social welfare idea — say, on something as vague as “education,” which could also include issue ads criticizing certain politicians. And then, the reasoning goes, a group can spend as much as 49 percent of its expenditures on ads directly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate for office.
Nowhere in tax regulations or rulings does it mention 49 percent, though. Some nonprofit lawyers have argued that the IRS should set hard limits for social welfare nonprofits — setting out, for instance, that they cannot spend more than 20 percent of their money on election ads or even limiting spending to a fixed amount, like no more than $250,000.
So far, the IRS has avoided clarifying any limits.
2. Donors to social welfare nonprofits are anonymous for a reason.
Unlike donors who give directly to politicians or even to super PACs, donors who give to social welfare nonprofits can stay secret. In large part, this is because of an attempt by Alabama to force the NAACP, then a social welfare nonprofit, to disclose its donors in the 1950s. In 1958, the Supreme Court sided with the NAACP, saying that public identification of its members made them at risk of reprisal and threats.
The ACLU, which is itself a social welfare nonprofit, has long made similar arguments. So has Karl Rove, the GOP strategist and brains behind Crossroads GPS, which has spent more money on elections than any other social welfare nonprofit. In early April 2012, Rove invoked the NAACP in defending his organization against attempts to reveal donors.
The Federal Election Commission could in theory push for some disclosure from social welfare nonprofits — for their election ads, at least. But the FEC has been paralyzed by a 3-3 partisan split, and its interpretations of older court decisions have given nonprofits wiggle room to avoid saying who donated money, as long as a donation wasn’t specifically made for a political ad.
New rulings indicate that higher courts, including the Supreme Court, favor disclosure for political ads, and states are also stepping into the fray. During the 2012 elections, courts in two states – Montana and Idaho – ruled that two nonprofits engaged in state campaigns needed to disclose donors.
But sometimes, when nonprofits funnel donations, the answers raise more questions. It’s the Russian nesting doll phenomenon. Last election, for instance, California’s election agency pushed for an Arizona social welfare nonprofit to disclose donors for $11 million spent on two California ballot initiatives. The answer? Another social welfare nonprofit, which in turn got the money from a trade association, which also doesn’t have to reveal its donors.
3. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision meant that corporations could pay for political ads, anonymously, using social welfare nonprofits.
In January 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions could spend money directly on election ads. A later court decision made possible super PACs, the political committees that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from donors, as long as they don’t coordinate with candidates and as long as they report their donors and spending.
Initially, campaign finance watchdogs believed corporations would give directly to super PACs. And in some cases, that happened. But not as much as anyone thought, and maybe for a reason: Disclosure isn’t necessarily good for business. Target famously faced a consumer and shareholder backlash after it gave money in 2010 to a group backing a Minnesota candidate who opposed gay rights.
Many watchdogs now believe that large public corporations are giving money to support candidates through social welfare nonprofits and trade associations, partly to avoid disclosure. Although the tax-exempt groups were allowed to spend money on election ads before Citizens United, their spending skyrocketed in 2010 and again in 2012.
A New York Times article based on rare cases in which donors have been disclosed, sometimes accidentally, explored the issue of corporations giving to these groups last year. Insurance giant Aetna, for example, accidentally revealed it gave $3 million in 2011 to the American Action Network, a social welfare group founded by former Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican, that runs election ads.
Groups that favor more disclosure have so far failed to force action by the FEC, the IRS, or Congress, although some corporations have voluntarily reported their political spending. Advocates have now turned to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is studying a proposal to require public companies to disclose political contributions.
The idea is already facing strong opposition from House Republicans.
4. Social welfare nonprofits do not actually have to apply to the IRS for recognition as tax-exempt organizations.
With all the furor over applications being flagged from conservative groups — particularly groups with “Tea Party,” “Patriot” or “9/12” in their names — it’s worth remembering that a social welfare nonprofit doesn’t even have to apply to the IRS in the first place.
Unlike charities, which are supposed to apply for recognition, social welfare nonprofits can simply incorporate and start raising and spending money, without ever applying to the IRS.
The agency’s nonprofit wing is mainly concerned about ferreting out bad charities, which are the biggest chunk of nonprofits and the biggest source of potential revenue. After all, the IRS’s main job is to collect revenue. Charities allow donors to deduct donations, while social welfare nonprofits don’t.
Most major social welfare nonprofits do apply, because being recognized is seen as insurance against later determination by the IRS that the group should have registered as a political committee and may face back taxes and disclosure of donors. A recognition letter is also essential to raise money from certain donors — like, say, corporations.
But some of the new groups haven’t applied.
The first time the IRS hears about these social welfare nonprofits is often when they file their first annual tax return, not due until sometimes more than a year after they’ve formed.
In many cases, the first time the IRS hears about these groups is a full year after an election.
5. Most of the money spent on elections by social welfare nonprofits supports Republicans.
Of the more than $256 million spent by social welfare nonprofits on ads in the 2012 elections, at least 80 percent came from conservative groups, according to FEC figures tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Crossroads GPS, which this week said it believes it is among the conservative groups “targeted” by the IRS, spent more than $70 million in federal races in 2012. Americans for Prosperity, the social welfare nonprofit launched by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, spent more than $36 million. American Future Fund spent more than $25 million. Americans for Tax Reform spent almost $16 million. American Action Network spent almost $12 million.
Besides Crossroads GPS, each of those groups has applied to the IRS and been recognized as tax-exempt. (You can look at their applications here.)
All of those groups spent more than the largest liberal social welfare nonprofit, the League of Conservation Voters, which spent about $11 million on 2012 federal races. The next biggest group, Patriot Majority USA, spent more than $7 million. Planned Parenthood spent $6.5 million. VoteVets.org spent more than $3 million.
None of those figures include the tens of millions of dollars spent by groups on certain ads that run months before an election that are not reported to the FEC.
6. Some social welfare groups promised in their applications, under penalty of perjury, that they wouldn’t get involved in elections. Then they did just that.
Much of the attention when it comes to Tea Party nonprofits has focused on their applications and how the IRS determines whether a group qualifies for social welfare status.
As part of our reporting on dark money in 2012, ProPublica looked at more than 100 applications for IRS recognition. One thing we noted again and again: Groups sometimes tell the IRS that they are not going to spend money on elections, receive IRS recognition, and then turn around and spend money on elections
The application to be recognized as a social welfare nonprofit, known as a 1024 Form, explicitly asks a group whether it has spent or plans to spend “any money attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any person to any Federal, state, or local public office or to an office in a political organization.”
The American Future Fund, a conservative nonprofit that would go on to spend millions of dollars on campaign ads, checked “No”in answer to that question in 2008. The very same day the group submitted its application, it uploaded this ad to its YouTube account:
Even before mailing its application to the IRS saying it would not spend money on elections in 2010, the Alliance for America’s Future was running TV ads supporting Republican candidates for governor in Nevada and Florida. It also had given $133,000 to two political committees directed by Mary Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president.
Another example of this is the Government Integrity Fund, a conservative nonprofit that ran ads in last year’s U.S. Senate race in Ohio. Its application was approved after ittold the IRS that it would not spend money on politics. The group went on to do just that.
For more on the IRS and nonprofits active in politics, read our story on how the IRS’s nonprofit division got so dysfunctional, Kim Barker’s investigation, “How nonprofits spend millions on elections and call it public welfare” and our Q&A on dark money.
An FBI agent issuing a search warrant for a man wanted for murder was shot in an apartment in Las Vegas on Tuesday evening, KTNV 13 reports.
The agent, who has not yet been identified, was wearing a protective vest and did not sustain serious injuries, the ABC affiliate reported.
The FBI was serving a warrant at the Sonoma Shadows Apartment complex when the suspect fired a gun from a window, striking the agent, according to KTNV 13.
The suspect was taken into custody following a standoff with authorities.
An FBI agent this morning shot and killed an Orlando man after several hours of questioning him about his alleged connections to one of the Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the USA Today reports.
The FBI confirmed that the agent involved in the shooting was “conducting officials duties.”
Citing other media, the USA Today identified the victim as 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev.
A friend of the victim said Todashev knew the Boston bombing suspect because both were involved in mixed martial arts.
Details of the shooting remained unclear this morning.
Two FBI agents who were part of an elite rescue team were killed in Virginia when they plunged to their deaths during a counter terrorism exercise, CBS News reports.
Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw, who are members of the bureau’s hostage rescue team, were killed when the helicopter involved in the exercise encountered problems.
“The FBI agents were participating in a maritime counterterrorism exercise involving helicopters and a ship,” Special Agent Ann Todd, an FBI spokeswoman, wrote in an email to CBS News on Monday. “The agents were in the process of fast-roping from the aircraft onto the ship when the helicopter encountered difficulties. The agents tragically fell a significant distance and suffered fatal injuries.”
The rescue team is highly trained and is often compared to the FBI version of the Navy Seals, CBS News wrote.
Federal prosecutors said they will not release the name of the confidential informant involved in the case against mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, the Boston Herald reports.
The defense attorneys maintain the informant helped the FBI determine what others may say during testimony.
Prosecutors dismissed the allegations as ” street talk” and “rumors.”
“The FBI has advised that the informant had no first-hand knowledge of any of this information, and indeed had no direct contact with the relevant individuals discussed in the FBI report: Kevin Weeks, John Martorano, Pat Nee, Jack Curran, Patrick Linskey, Michael Linskey, Richard Buccheri and Kevin Weeks’ former girlfriend,” prosecutors said in court papers filed Monday.
The prosecutors added that the defense is “free to impugn government witnesses’ credibility through vigorous cross-examination, and may ask witnesses about prior inconsistent statements.”
The General Services Association soon will begin accepting proposals to relocate FBI headquarters beginning this summer, the Kingstowne-Rose Hill Patch reports.
The FBI has received numerous preliminary proposals from surrounding cities to be home to the new FBI headquarters.
The current headquarters in Washington D.C. is outdated and crumbling, the GSA has said.
The FBI is looking for land that is close to the metro station and Beltway.
The Justice Department is investigating the high-profile blunders of the ATF in Milwaukee following embarrassing mistakes reported by the the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the newspaper reports.
In letters to two members of Congress, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the sting raised “significant management issues related to the oversight and management” of the ATF, the newspaper wrote.
Journal Sentinel reports detail serious mistakes, including having their guns stolen, losing $40,000 in merchandise and allowing an armed man who had threatened to shoot someone leave the store.