Able Danger Blog

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fitzgerald gets promoted

Looks like Peter Lance's reporting has not had much impact on his career so far:

Patrick Fitzgerald, the top prosecutor in Illinois’ Northern District, has been named interim chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys (AGAC).

In his new role, Fitzgerald will be the lead voice for the U.S. attorney community. It’s the latest high-profile assignment for America’s prosecutor, who has been busy overseeing the prosecution of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), bringing down mortgage fraudsters, and fighting with journalists....

The committee, which represents the views of the nation’s top prosecutors and molds law enforcement policy, has dwindled in size as Bush-era appointees have headed for the exit. Fitzgerald replaces Karin Immergut, the former U.S. attorney in Oregon, who stepped down as chairwoman this month to become a state judge. (Fun facts: Fitzgerald and Immergut share the same birthdate — December 22, 1960 — are both from Brooklyn, and attended Amherst College together.)

Fitzgerald’s assignment is significant. It means the U.S. attorney community now has a chief ambassador with some staying power. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recommended Fitzgerald for another term, an overture that was well-received by Attorney General Eric Holder....

Fitzgerald will be keeping the seat warm for B. Todd Jones, who, as we reported here, is slated to chair the committee if confirmed. Jones, the nominee for the U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota, has broad support and could see a vote on his nomination in the full Senate before the August recess. Jones is currently a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi in Minneapolis.

Time to end Weldon investigation

Editorial from the Delaware County Daily Times:

It has been many months since federal prosecutors accepted the plea agreements of Caso and Grimes and yet no other charges have been filed as a result of the government’s investigation.

That probe included the now famous pre-Election Day raids on the homes of Weldon’s daughter and his political associate Charles Sexton Jr.

It was assumed by some at the time that the Justice Department wouldn’t have taken the extraordinary steps to conduct such raids if it didn’t have substantial evidence of wrongdoing on the part of its targets....

They either have some reasonable evidence that crimes were committed or they don’t. They’ve had more than four years to nail this thing down.

For better or for worse it’s time to bring this matter to a conclusion.

Was Weldon targeted by Karl Rove?

Some interesting details from New Mexico in the Rove investigation:

Wilson pointed to a letter she released in September 2008. The letter, written in response to an inquiry from James Meade in the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), states that her Oct. 15, 2006 e-mail was not related to the U.S. House race but was related to “an FBI inquiry concerning my opponent, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, which occurred while she was running for Congress in 2006.”

The letter states that the FBI asked in June 2006 for information about Madrid’s connection to the political action committee Justice for America. Earlier, Wilson, Domenici and former U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce filed a related complaint with the Federal Election Commission, the letter states.

The letter contains no other details about the probe.

From the Wilson letter to Meade:

“The AP story on October 15, 2006 caught my eye because the FBI, or someone close to the FBI, had leaked information about an investigation of Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania to the media. I believed it was possible we would see a similar leak from law enforcement concerning Mrs. Madrid and that we could be asked by the media to comment on it.

“My staff had contingency press guidance that, if asked, we would confirm that we had received an inquiry from the FBI about Attorney General Madrid and we were cooperating with law enforcement. The recipients of my (Oct. 15, 2006) e-mail knew about the FBI inquiry and the contingency press guidance. This e-mail was intended to be a ‘heads up’ to them. “

The probe of Madrid was not revealed publicly until Wilson’s 2008 letter to Meade was released to the media, but even then the Meade letter was not widely covered by journalists.

In an interview, Madrid said she heard in 2006 from “a number of sources… that the FBI was threatening me.”

“If there was an investigation of me, I’m sure that they were put up to it by Karl Rove, Domenici and Heather Wilson. They instigated all of that,” Madrid said, adding that any allegations made against her were baseless.

“I guarantee you, if the FBI and Iglesias and Karl Rove had had anything on me, they would have used it. They didn’t. They had nothing,” she said.

Some more details:

In October 2006, a month before the midterm elections that cost Republicans control of the Congress, an e-mail chain started by Rep. Heather Wilson, R-New Mexico, faulted Iglesias for not using his office in a manner that would help Wilson in her reelection campaign.

Wilson’s e-mail included a news report about an FBI probe of Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pennsylvania, as an example of criminal investigations proceeding close to election day.

Steve Bell, chief of staff to New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici, forwarded the e-mail to Jennings at Rove’s White House shop, with a note, saying it “seems like other U.S. attorneys can do their work even in election season. And the FBI has already admitted they have turned over their evidence [in a federal corruption probe] to the [U.S. Attorney] in [New Mexico] and are merely awaiting his action.”

Jennings then passed along the e-mail to Rove, saying Iglesias was “shy about doing his job on [Patricia] Madrid,” a Democratic congressional candidate who would lose the 2006 election to Wilson by only 800 votes.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Remains identified as Captain Scott Speicher

From the DOD press release:

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) has positively identified remains recovered in Iraq as those of Captain Michael Scott Speicher. Captain Speicher was shot down flying a combat mission in an F/A-18 Hornet over west-central Iraq on January 17th, 1991 during Operation Desert Storm.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Speicher's family for the ultimate sacrifice he made for his country," said Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy. "I am also extremely grateful to all those who have worked so tirelessly over the last 18 years to bring Captain Speicher home."

“Our Navy will never give up looking for a shipmate, regardless of how long or how difficult that search may be,” said Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Captain Speicher and his family for the sacrifice they have made for our nation and the example of strength they have set for all of us.”

Acting on information provided by an Iraqi citizen in early July, US Marines stationed in Al Anbar Province went to a location in the desert which was believed to be the crash site of Captain Speicher’s jet. The Iraqi citizen stated he knew of two Iraqi citizens who recalled an American jet impacting the desert and the remains of the pilot being buried in the desert. One of these Iraqi citizens stated that they were present when Captain Speicher was found dead at the crash site by Bedouins and his remains buried. The Iraqi citizens led US Marines to the site who searched the area. Remains were recovered over several days during the past week and flown to Dover Air Force Base for scientific identification by the AFIP’s Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

The recovered remains include bones and multiple skeletal fragments. Positive identification was made by comparing Captain Speicher’s dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site. The teeth are a match, both visually and radiographically.

While dental records have confirmed the remains to be those of Captain Speicher, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology DNA Lab in Rockville, Maryland is running DNA tests on the remains recovered in Iraq and comparing them to DNA reference samples previously provided by family members. Results will take approximately 24 hours.

Some members of the Able Danger team were involved in this search:

Speicher was a lieutenant commander when shot down, but because his status remained uncertain, he received promotions during the past 18 years, reaching the rank of captain.

He was originally listed as "Killed-In-Action/Body-Not-Recovered" in May 1991. That status changed in 2001 to "Missing in Action," and then to "Missing/Captured" in 2002 based on sighting reports inIraq. Those sightings have since been discredited.

His status was changed back to MIA earlier this year.

In the six years that the United States has been in Iraq for the second Gulf War, many leads and alleged sightings of Speicher have been investigated and found to be false.

The Speicher family has worked closely with the Navy to ensure the hunt for him would not stop.