Archive for January 7, 2014

REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: 80 RETIRED NEW YORK COPS AND FIREMEN CHARGED WITH SOCIAL SECURITY FRAUD

08fraud-3-articleLargeCyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, held a news conference on Tuesday to announce the indictments. The photograph is from an online account of one of the defendants, who had applied for disability.

Eighty retired New York City police officers and firefighters were charged on Tuesday in one of the largest Social Security disability frauds ever, a sprawling decades-long scheme in which false mental disability claims by as many as 1,000 people cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, according to court papers.  Scores of those charged in the case essentially stole in plain sight, according to a 205-count indictment and a bail letter, collecting between $30,000 and $50,000 a year based on fabricated claims that they were completely incapacitated by serious psychiatric disorders. Many said that their actions in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were responsible for their psychiatric conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression. But their Facebook pages and other websites, according to the court papers, tell a starkly different story.

The bail letter includes photographs culled from the Internet that show one riding a jet ski and others working at jobs ranging from helicopter pilot to martial arts instructor. One is shown fishing off the coast of Costa Rica and another sitting astride a motorcycle, while another appeared in a television news story selling cannoli at the Feast of San Gennaro on Mulberry Street in Manhattan. Indeed, prosecutors charge that they were coached by the scheme’s organizers to appear disheveled and disoriented during interviews, in which doctors initially evaluated their disability applications before finding them to be mentally disabled and incapable of any work whatsoever.

The indictment, brought by the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., charges a total of 106 people, four of whom are accused of running the scheme. That group includes an 83-year-old lawyer who has worked as an F.B.I. agent and a prosecutor, an 89-year-old pension consultant and a 61-year-old official of the union that represents New York City police detectives, according to the bail letter. Scores of those charged, including a number of the 72 retired officers and eight firefighters, were arrested early Tuesday morning and were scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan before Acting Justice Daniel Fitzgerald.

08retired_cnd-popupJoseph Esposito, a retired New York police officer, appeared at the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday.

“It’s a particularly cynical part of the charged scheme that approximately half the defendants falsely claimed that their psychiatric disabilities were caused by the 9/11 attacks,” Mr. Vance said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “This fraud not only forced taxpayers to finance the lifestyles of New York scammers but it also takes away from the already limited resources we have for people who actually suffer from psychiatric disabilities, and that includes of course the brave first responders who ran toward the fires on Sept. 11.” Mr. Vance said one of the defendants, Louis Hurtado, had retired from the Police Department with a disability pension after suffering a neck injury, and then opened a martial arts studio. Yet he still applied for disability from the Social Security Administration, saying he suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome.

Another former officer, Glenn Lieberman, told government doctors he had panic attacks because of his experiences immediately following the terrorist attacks, and could not go outside. Nonetheless, his Facebook page revealed a picture of himself online cavorting on a jet ski. “The brazenness was amazing,” Mr. Vance said. The indictment accuses the four men it identifies as the scheme’s organizers of directing hundreds of applicants to the Social Security Disability Insurance program to lie about their psychiatric conditions and feign certain symptoms in order to obtain benefits to which they were not entitled. Those men — the lawyer, Raymond Lavallee; the pension consultant, Thomas Hale; the detectives’ union official, John Minerva; and Joseph Esposito, 64, a retired New York police officer who recruited many of the other defendants — were charged with first- and second-degree grand larceny and attempted second-degree grand larceny.

The other 102 people charged in the case, who all received Social Security disability insurance payments based on what the indictment alleges were false claims, were charged with second-degree grand larceny and second-degree attempted grand larceny. Mr. Vance announced the charges at the news conference with officials from the United States Social Security Administration’s inspector general’s office, the Secret Service and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. Most of those charged were expected to be arrested in the New York City area, but many live in other parts of the country, according to a person briefed on the matter.

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Joseph Conway, a lawyer for Mr. Hale, said that he and the lawyers representing Mr. Esposito and Mr. Lavallee, Brian Griffin and Raymond Perini, respectively, would not comment until after the arraignments. Mr. Minerva’s lawyer, Glenn F. Hardy, said that his client was “a hard-working individual” who had never been arrested and was “leading an exemplary life.” He added, “He was working within the rules as he understood them.” The 11-page bail letter, addressed to Justice Fitzgerald, traced the scheme’s origins to 1988, and estimated that the retirees collected fraudulent disability awards ranging from approximately $50,000 to $500,000. “Based on evidence gathered by the SSA Inspector General and the Manhattan district attorney’s office, we estimate that over the 26 years of the charged scheme, fraudulent claims were filed with respect to as many as 1,000 individuals totaling as much as $400 million in benefits received,” according to the letter from the assistant district attorneys Bryan Serino and Christopher Santora.

One person with knowledge of the matter said that Mr. Lavallee had been handling Social Security disability claims since the 1970s, and that investigators believed the scheme may have begun well before 1988. The letter said that the Social Security Administration had paid out a total of $21.4 million in benefits to the 102 people charged in the indictment. Several people involved in the case said that it was likely that as many as 50 more people would be charged in the coming weeks with making fraudulent claims. Investigators and prosecutors were still collecting evidence, the people said, to determine how many others among the roughly 1,000 people who they believe made false claims can be charged.

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500 PASSENGERS RESCUED FROM FROZEN AMTRAK TRAIN STUCK IN SNOW

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CHICAGO, Illinois | DMN – Hundreds of passengers found themselves stranded overnight on Chicago-bound Amtrak trains as a major winter storm plunged much of the American Midwest into dangerously cold subzero temperatures. Three Amtrak trains containing approximately 500 passengers were stopped about 80 miles west of Chicago, in Mendota, Illinois, due to severe snow and ice buildup on the tracks. The trains were halted between 3:15 and 4:15 p.m on Monday and remained stuck for the rest of the day, unable to move even through Tuesday morning.

Around 6 a.m. Tuesday, Amtrak officials began transferring passengers onto charter buses for the remainder of the trip. The first set of passengers has already arrived in Chicago, while others are expected to reach the city by the afternoon. “We’ve completed unloading the first train,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said to ABC News early Tuesday morning. “We’re now moving to unload the second. And all those passengers from those trains who spent the night overnight in Bureau County will be on chartered buses coming here to Chicago this morning.”

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Unfortunately for some passengers, the conditions aboard the trains weren’t exactly ideal. While some passengers told WLS-TV the heat was on and food was served, others told Good Morning America a different story. “The conditions is cold, we’re wearing coats,” said Laurette Mosley, who was stuck onboard one of the trains for 14 hours. “And my husband is a diabetic. He hasn’t had any food all day. The bathrooms are flooded. The sinks are full with water and the toilets are flooded.” While Amtrak officials sort out train delays, the East Coast and the American South are bracing for the arrival of the powerful “polar vortex” that’s wreaked havoc on the Midwest. Wind chill warnings have been issued for states as far down as Florida, while single-digit highs are expected in Alabama and Georgia.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently declared a state of emergency for the western part of the state, where up to 36 inches of snow could fall and wind chills could plunge to 40 degrees below zero. According to the Associated Press, about 187 million Americans will have faced the effects of the polar vortex by the time it runs its course. As with any storm involving ice and heavy snowfall, electrical outages are a major concern. In Indiana, more than 30,000 customers remain without electricity due to downed power lines, while New York has lined up close to 4,000 officials to help respond to any power outages that may occur.

Meanwhile, even countries across the Atlantic are feeling the polar vortex’s wrath. In Britain, a surge of powerful winds and swelling ocean waves were described by the Associated Press as “loosely connected to the weather system that caused the U.S winter storm.” By Wednesday, though, weather forecasters expect temperatures to rise steadily in the Midwest, with temperatures reaching above-freezing levels by the end of the week.

OMAHA POLICE UNION UNDER FIRE FOR USE OF “TODDLER VIDEO”

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OMAHA, Nebraska | DMN — The Omaha Police Officers Association in Nebraska has come under extreme criticism after it posted a video of an African-American toddler uttering profanities to use as an example of ‘the thug cycle’. The diapered child is seen in a phone camera video taken by two purported relatives who are swearing at each other and the child and teaching him to swear back. ‘… despite the fact that it is sickening, heartbreaking footage, we have an obligation to share it to continue to educate the law-abiding public about the terrible cycle of violence and thuggery that some young innocent children find themselves helplessly trapped in,’ said the post on their website.

The website states: ‘Now while we didn’t see anything in this video that is blatantly ‘illegal’, we sure did see a lot that is flat-out immoral and completely unhealthy for this little child from a healthy upbringing standpoint.’ The post tells the public that they are ‘literally watching “the cycle” of violence continue right in front of your eyes. A powerful cycle that must be broken if we ever hope to get a handle on violence in Omaha. A powerful cycle that the police alone cannot stop.’  The so-called ‘thug’ who posted the video of the toddler has lashed back in a comment on the police association’s Facebook page, which has not done him any favors as it’s laced with f-word bombs.

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Union President John Wells, who is a sergeant in the Omaha Police Department, told Gawker that they use the term ‘thug’ as a ‘general term on our Facebook page’, but that it could be substituted by a variety of other terms including ‘abnormal, antisocial, criminal’. However, many people have taken to social media to criticize the move. One user, Joshua David, said on the union’s Facebook page: ‘As a union employee and member, I’m ashamed that this post exists. Not because of the video, but because of the racism. But hey, at least he’ll learn early that he’s nothing but an n-word to society.’

Defending their action of posting the video of the toddler and likening it to violence, Wells said that ‘a lot of these children end up dealing with law enforcement’.  ‘[But] I’m not saying that this kid won’t grow up to be a productive member of society.’ The post called the video’s creator, who is reportedly the toddler’s uncle, a ‘local thug’, but Wells said: ‘I don’t know that he’s a gangbanger… he mentions 29th Street, which is a local Bloods gang here’. He told Gawker.com that his association is different to the police department, which is why they have ‘a lot more latitude to be a little more edgy’ and that edginess is necessary to force a deeper conversation on the city’s crime problems.  Omaha is largely ethnically segregated, he says, and many residents dismiss crime by saying ‘it didn’t happen in my part of town, that’s not a problem’, he said.

REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: COPS KILLS MENTALLY ILL TEENAGER AFTER FAMILY CALLS FOR HELP

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A Boiling Springs Lakes, North Carolina family is looking for answers after local police shot and killed their mentally ill teenage son while responding to a call for help. The family contends that Keith Vidal, 18, was “killed in cold blood” after police were requested to help calm the teenager down during a schizophrenic episode. Now, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation has decided to look into the matter, as Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David vowed to meet with the family and “go wherever the truth leads in this case.” “The public deserves to have a process put in place that will lead to the most just resolution,” he said, according to NBC News.

The incident occurred on Sunday, January 5, when Vidal suffered from a mental breakdown in which he threatened to fight his mother. He was holding a small screwdriver in his hand when the first of three police units arrived at the scene. A confrontation was noted in the county event report obtained by local WECT, but the responding unit radioed in multiple times that the situation was under control. Little more than a minute after a third police unit arrived, it reported that a gun was fired in self-defense.

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According to the teenager’s father Mark Wilsey, however, Vidal posed no danger to anyone. He said the screwdriver in his son’s hand was small and not a threat, while the family noted that the young man had just turned 18 and weighed 90 pounds. Wilsey said that Vidal had been subdued until the third officer walked in and the boy became agitated. “Then all of a sudden, this Southport cop came, walked in the house [and said]: ‘I don’t have time for this. Tase him. Let’s get him out of here,’” Wilsey told NBC. After the stun gun was used on Vidal, Wilsey said the third officer shot him, saying he was protecting his officers. “He reached right up, shot this kid point-blank, with all intent to kill,” Wilsey added. “He just murdered him flat out.”

Southport Police Chief Jerry Dove said in a press conference that Detective Byron Vassey, a nine-year veteran of the force, had been placed on administrative leave following the incident. Dove would not say whether Vassey was the officer who fired the gun. As WECT noted, Vidal’s mother, Mary Wilsey, said she tried to get her son help on multiple occasions. The family added that their daughter was just recently killed in a car accident, making Vidal the second child they’ll have to bury. Neighbors, meanwhile, said that while Vidal suffered from depression, he played with their children and never hurt anyone.

EMBATTLED LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF WILL RETIRE ACCORDING TO SOURCES

Lee Baca

LOS ANGELES, California | DMN — News outlets in Southern California are reporting that Embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is expected to announce Tuesday that he will not run for a fifth term as the county’s top cop and will step down from his post by the end of the month. The story is reported by The Los Angeles Times and NBC News quoting unnamed sources. Baca’s decision comes a month after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 18 current and former sheriff’s deputies accused of beating jail inmates and visitors, trying to intimidate an FBI agent and other crimes following an investigation of corruption inside the nation’s largest jail system.

The timing of his announcement remains unclear. But it was confirmed by multiple sources, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.  Baca won office in 1998 when his rival, incumbent Sheriff Sherman Block, died days before the election. In the next three elections, he easily won in primaries against fields of lesser-known candidates, avoiding head-to-head runoff elections. By 2010, no one bothered to challenge him. This election was going to be different, even before the indictments.

Sheriff Lee Baca

Baca already was coping not just with the FBI probe but criticism of his leadership from members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and a special commission on jail violence. The Times also reported that the department had hired dozens of officers in 2010 despite background investigations that found significant misconduct. NBC News reports that His decision to retire comes weeks after Andre Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney for California’s Central District,announced charges against 18 current and former deputies assigned to the Los Angeles County jails in connection with “a wide scope of illegal conduct,” including allegations of unjustified beating of inmates, unjustified detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation.

Separately, the U.S. Justice Department found that deputies patrolling the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County repeatedly harassed and intimidated blacks and Latinos including using racial profiling and excessive force.  The only political consolation for Baca as he gears up for the June election may be that two of his rivals — former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former sheriff’s Cmdr. Bob Olmsted — also could be put on the defensive by the continuing criminal probe of alleged misconduct in the department.  One source, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity, said the 71-year-old Baca, who  has served 15 years as County Sheriff, made “a difficult decision,” but one that was “in the best interests of the department and people of Los Angeles County.”

Gang Indictments

“This was one of the most difficult decisions of the sheriff’s professional career,” said the source. “He made it clear that he was doing this to remove any distractions from the positive work that the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is doing on behalf of the county.” A formal announcement will be made in the morning, a source said. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors chooses an interim Sheriff with input from Baca.  During his four terms in office, Baca won praise for programs that benefited the homeless and inmates. He was one of the driving forces – along with  then LAPD Chief William Bratton and former District Attorney Steve Cooley — behind the new state-of-the-art crime lab that that opened at Cal State Los Angeles.

The department grew from 14,000 to 19,000 employees under Baca as crime fell to the lowest levels in a generation. In addition, it absorbed the troubled Compton Police Department, drastically reducing crime in that city. Baca also created the Office of Independent Review, headed by former federal prosecutor Michael Gennaco, to oversee the department’s internal investigations. Early in his tenure, Baca had a knack for getting ahead of public controversies including a spate of murders in the Los Angeles County Jail, a contagious fire incident in Compton when deputies unloaded 120 rounds at a car-chase suspect in a residential neighborhood; an uproar about early release of inmates and even a decision to release socialite Paris Hilton early from jail.


REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: WHY DENNIS RODMAN IS A PROFOUND IDIOT

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Dennis Rodman is a profound idiot. Here’s why. Rodman has lashed out at a CNN anchor after being asked to explain his motivations for his second trip to North Korea. The former NBA star started screaming at New Day anchor Chris Cuomo after the host pressed him about whether or not he would advocate on behalf of imprisoned American Kenneth Bae. While he maintains that the trip is not a political one, Rodman went on to imply that Bae, a missionary, was at fault for his 15-year prison sentence even though the North Korean government has yet to announce the charges against him.

‘The one thing about politics, Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand — if you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did? In this country?’ Rodman said to Cuomo.  ‘What did he do? You tell me,’ Cuomo said. ‘You tell me. You tell me. Why is he held captive?’ Rodman said, growing visibly agitated. Cuomo and Rodman began speaking over each other and fellow basketball player Chris Smith tried to calm Rodman down but he waved him off, saying ‘I would love to speak on this’ before deflecting and focusing on the team of former NBA players who traveled to the rogue nation to participate in what they see as a diplomatic sports trip.

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At one point during the interview, Rodman yelled out at Cuomo, saying: ‘I don’t give a rats ass what you think!’  ‘It’s amazing how we strive on negativity. This guy this leader, do [sic] anyone know this guy is only 31 years old?’ The eccentric Chicago Bulls star went from praising ‘my friend’ Kim Jong Un to praising the sacrifices that his fellow Americans have made by traveling with him- ‘We’ve got ten guys here who left their families… do you understand that?’ he said at one point. He started off by explaining that the trip is ‘not a good idea, the one thing that we’re doing- it’s a great idea for the world- for the world. People always come down on things I do and it’s weird, it’s like “Wow, really?” You got Michael Jordan, you got LeBron James and they can do all the cool things in the world but me its like why North Korea?’

After listing off some of his better-known former NBA stars that traveled with him, Rodman praised the men for being ‘the last sole survivors’ who agreed to go with him.  ‘I’ve had a lot of guys pull out,’ he said.  Former Knicks star Chris Smith was far calmer during his talking points, saying that the group just saw the trip as another opportunity to use basketball to connect people. ‘We’re apologetic. We did not know it was going to take this type of negative spin,’ Smith said, though at another point he said that ‘you’d have to live under a rock not to know the press that was coming’.

Rodman’s squad – featuring ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker – will play against a team of North Koreans on Wednesday, which is believed to be Kim’s birthday. Upon their Monday arrival in Pyongyang, Rodman told The Associated Press he was glad to be in North Korea for the game, though he said he has gotten death threats for his repeated visits. He said proceeds from the game would go to a charity for the deaf in North Korea.  ‘The marshal is actually trying to change this country in a great way,’ Rodman said of Kim, using the leader’s official title. ‘I think that people thought that this was a joke, and Dennis Rodman is just doing this because fame and fortune.’ Instead, he said, he sees the game as a ‘birthday present’ for Kim and his country.

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‘Just to even have us here, it’s an awesome feeling. I want these guys here to show the world, and speak about North Korea in a great light,’ he said. ‘I hope people will have a different view about North Korea.’ NBA Commissioner David Stern issued a statement Monday night. ‘The NBA is not involved with Mr Rodman’s North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department,’ Stern said. ‘Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them.’

Kim Jong Un announced recently that he ordered the execution of his uncle who previously served as his number two, but Rodman avoided answering any questions about the execution when pressed by Cuomo.  ‘It’s about trying to connect two countries together in the world, to let people know that: Do you know what? Not every country in the world is that bad, especially North Korea,’ Rodman told The Associated Press in an interview outside his Beijing hotel before his flight to North Korea. ‘People say so many negative things about North Korea. And I want people in the world to see it’s not that bad.’

The U.S. is at odds with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, and Rodman has been faulted for not talking about North Korea’s human rights record, described as one of the world’s worst by activists, the U.S. State Department and North Korean defectors.  The defectors have repeatedly testified about the government’s alleged use of indiscriminate killings, rapes, beatings and prison camps holding as many as 120,000 people deemed opponents of authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un, the third generation of his family to rule.

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The U.S. players are to compete in an exhibition game against a North Korean team on Wednesday, Kim’s birthday. ‘Somehow we have to get along, and no matter what disagreements or what discrepancy we have in life,’ Rodman said.  ‘It’s like saying: Why do we have the Olympics? When everyone one comes together in the Olympics, there’s no problems. That’s what I’m doing. That’s all I’m doing.’ The fact that Rodman has developed a friendship with Kim Jong Un will seem surreal to many.  A picture surfaced on Monday of the former basketball player riding the tyrant’s horse last summer, which makes the relationship seem even more bizarre.

North Korea is a complicated place, without question, and normally, this journalist favors efforts that involve opening doors and communicating with our adversaries. Decades of sanctions and isolation have not stopped North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. Isolation has not helped human rights. The problem is that Rodman is not a diplomat. He is not a negotiator. While Rodman is hooping it up for the dictator, an American is still being held in a North Korean prison. What then, is Rodman’s point? There is not one. Dennis has found the last place on the planet where he is newsworthy and it’s sad. Very sad.

Posted January 7, 2014 by dmnewsi in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: ACTIVISTS ADMIT THEFT AT F.B.I. OFFICE THAT REVEALED DOMESTIC SPYING

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In this country, there is precedent for domestic spying. Forty-three years after the mysterious theft of up to 1,000 documents from an FBI office outside Philadelphia, three former political activists are publicly confessing to the brazen burglary, calling it an act of “resistance” that exposed “massive illegal surveillance and intimidation.” “We did it … because somebody had to do it,” John Raines, 80, a retired professor of religion at Temple University, said  in an interview with NBC News.  “In this case, by breaking a law — entering, removing files — we exposed a crime that was going on. … When we are denied the information we need  to have to  act as citizens, then we have a right to do what we did.”

Raines, his wife, Bonnie, and Keith Forsyth, a former Philadelphia cab driver, said they were part of an eight-member ring  of anti-Vietnam War protesters that  —while much of the country was gripped by the so-called “Fight of the Century” in New York between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier— broke into the FBI’s Media, Penn., office on March 8, 1971. Members of the burglary team, armed with little more than a crowbar and wearing  suits and ties, then walked off undetected  with suitcases stuffed with sensitive bureau files that revealed a domestic FBI spying operation known as COINTELPRO. The heist enraged the bureau’s legendary Director J. Edgar Hoover , who launched a massive but ultimately futile manhunt.

The identities of the burglars are revealed in a  book being published Tuesday, “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI,” by Betty Medsger , a former Washington Post reporter. The book, as well as a new film, “1971,” by documentarian Johanna Hamilton, portray the break-in  as a story with new resonance in light of the recent  revelations of National Security Agency surveillance of American citizens by ex-contractor Edward Snowden.

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Much like Snowden, the FBI burglars selectively leaked the stolen files to journalists. They produced months of headlines about  FBI surveillance of anti-war and civil rights groups  — including the first references to COINTELPRO, a secret program started years earlier by Hoover and aimed at smearing the reputations of perceived enemies such as Dr. Martin Luther King.Among the stolen files: plans to enhance “paranoia” among “New Left” groups by instilling fears that “there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.” Another instructed agents in the Philadelphia area to monitor the “clientele” of “Afro-American type bookstores” and recruit informants among the “the Negro militant movement.”

“These documents were explosive,” said Medsger, who was the first reporter to write about them after receiving a batch of the files anonymously in the mail. Her book traces how the stolen files led to a landmark Senate investigation of intelligence and law enforcement agency abuses by the late Idaho Sen. Frank Church, and eventually to new Justice Department guidelines that barred the bureau from conducting investigations based on First Amendment protected political activity. After the burglary, said Medsger, “The FBI was never the same.” Advance word that the book and film might portray the burglars in a positive light has angered some former FBI agents, including  Pat Kelly, who worked in the burgled  office at the time. Along with a fellow agent, Kelly was the first to discover the break-in – a scene he still vividly remembers.

“Pat, someone got in our pants,” he recalls his colleague saying as they entered the office. “We found the office in total disarray. Files were all over the place. Paperwork discarded. All the drawers of the desks were ransacked. … I was in a state of shock.” Kelly said he remains “incensed”  by the crime and frustrated that, despite a  wide-ranging investigation that at one point involved 200 agents, failed to find the thieves. As far as he’s concerned, the burglars  “are criminals, not patriots.” “I don’t believe such people have the right to take it upon themselves and make decisions’ about what should be made public,” said Kelly, who served as an FBI agent for 32 years until his retirement in 2001. “These are the same type of people that would look upon Snowden as perhaps a patriot when … in my opinion, he was a traitor.”

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In response to a request for comment from NBC News, FBI spokesman Michael Kortan emailed this statement:  “A number of events during that era, including the burglary, contributed to changes in how the FBI identified and addressed domestic security threats, leading to reform of the FBI’s intelligence policies and practices.” With the five-year statute of limitations on burglary long since expired and the case officially closed, Raines, his wife and Forsyth said they have few fears about revealing their identities now. To the contrary, they spoke with pride about their roles during several interviews.  “We should have a plaque right up there,” said Raines, standing outside what is now a real estate office across from the Delaware County courthouse, and pointing to the second floor where the FBI office was located.  “This is where it happened.”

The burglars were committed political activists during a turbulent era: John Raines was a civil rights “Freedom Rider” who marched in Selma, Ala., and got arrested in Little Rock sitting with African Americans at a segregated lunch counter.  Later in the 1960sthey turned their protest efforts to stopping the Vietnam War. “I was horrified that our government was lying to us about what was actually happening in Vietnam,” said Bonnie Raines, who later worked as a child care advocate. “And all the usual things we always did — picketing, marching, signing petitions — didn’t make any difference whatsoever.”

Their frustrations led them to acts of civil disobedience, including breaking into Philadelphia area Selective Service offices and destroying draft cards. In pulling off those raids, they got assistance from a fellow protester,  Forsyth, who said he developed a skill at picking the locks on the draft board office by taking a correspondence course. In the fall of 1970, an informal leader of their protest group , the late Bill Davidon, then a physics professor at Haverford College, proposed a more risky operation: breaking into a local FBI office in order to get proof of FBI surveillance of the peace movement. Davidon’s daughter, Sarah,  confirmed her father’s role, telling NBC News he first told her about it more than 25 years ago. “He didn’t call it a burglary. He always referred to it as ‘the Media action,’” she said. He did this because he felt strongly about civil liberties.”

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The team of burglars, calling themselves “the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI,” cased the Media office for hours in what John Rainesdescribed as a “hippie” van, monitoring  when agents came and left. Then, Bonnie Raines was dispatched to get a closer look by posing as a college student seeking to interview the agent in charge for a school paper about job opportunities for women in the FBI. “I tried to disguise my appearance as much as I could,” said Bonnie Raines. “I had long, dark, hippie hair at that time and I stuffed it up inside of a winter hat.” She was careful to leave no fingerprints. “What (the agent) didn’t notice during the whole interview was that I never took my gloves off,” she said.

After the break-in, the FBI developed a sketch of the  college student, but agents were unable to come up with a real name. ”We quickly realized that this was just a ‘send-in’ to try to ascertain what kind of security devices there were,” said Kelly, the former FBI agentThe burglars chose the evening of March 8, because of the national fixation with the Ali-Frazier fight, figuring that any security guards on duty would be glued to their radios. Forsyth entered first.  “I picked door B and busted the deadbolt off in one go with a crowbar,” he recalled. “And I held my breath.”

Next,  the team’s “inside crew” entered and started cracking open file cabinets and rifling through desk drawers for documents. Forsyth acknowledges they left the office a mess. “I don’t think we spent a lot time cleaning up,” he laughed. “I think we wanted to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.” John Raines drove the getaway car to a Quaker farm outside of town, where the team immediately began poring over the documents, getting excited as they found evidence of FBI surveillance. But even while sending out their anonymous mailings, they kept their secret, telling no one – not even their children — for years. But Raines said he now feels emboldened. And he also feels a special kinship with Snowden, the NSA leaker and current fugitive:  “From one whistleblower to another, ‘Hi,’” he said, waving to a camera. And he’s got a message for the FBI agents who looked for him for years. “Aren’t you glad you failed?” he said. “… Aren’t we all glad you failed?”

ABOUT COINTELPRO

What does COINTELPRO stand for?

Counter Intelligence Program

What was COINTELPRO?

From 1956 to 1971, the agency used covert operations to infiltrate domestic political groups that it considered subversive, including the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements, the Black Panthers and various exile groups. Field operatives were instructed to disrupt the groups, create factions and destroy their public image.

Was it legal?

In 1976, the final report of the Church Committee, a Senate group that investigated domestic surveillance by the CIA, NSA and FBI, said “Legal restrictions were ignored,” and asked, “What happened to turn a law enforcement agency into a law violator?” The report said the FBI had told outside authorities it was monitoring communists and white hate groups, but “[couldn’t] support its claim” that it had informed anyone outside the agency about its surveillance of other groups. The report led to a series of reforms that set limits on the FBI’s authority.

Who authorized it?

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover launched the program to disrupt Communist activity in the name of national security, but then redirected it against black civil rights leaders. Later it was expanded to disrupt the Ku Klux Klan. Hoover pulled the plug on the program in 1972 after its existence was revealed by the Media, Pa., burglary.

All of this of course brings several obvious assessments. First, it is widely known that the F.B.I. under J. Edgar Hoover engaged in many nefarious activities, many which were illegal. The legality did not matter because the ends justified the means in the eyes of those doing the snooping. How does this relate to the N.S.A.’s massive surveillance apparatus? We are being told the same basic thing and the end justifies the means. If our government has spied on us before…it will and IS doing it again. Do the ends justify the means? That is for you and I to decide. The President’s own blue ribbon panel says that the N.S.A. surveillance efforts have not thwarted a single terror attack…nada…zero. So…why are they spying? What is done with the data? N.S.A. officials offer “no comment” hiding behind a “national security” shroud that is, in all reality, a wall of silence. The government says “trust us.” Do we?

 

 

 

 

 

DANGEROUS ROAD CONDITIONS REMAIN AS INDIANA REMAINS IN DEEP FREEZE

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INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana | DMN — Officials say that it is still so cold in Indiana, normal methods for melting road ice simply do not work. Road conditions were not really improved Tuesday morning, with Indiana still in the clutches of the coldest temperatures in 20 years. Travel warnings and advisories remain in place across much of the state, with temperatures expected to improve slightly during the day before a more substantial warm-up later in the week.

There were numerous minor crashes and slide-offs during the early-morning hours as people attempted to get to work with road conditions just as bad Tuesday as they were Monday, worse in some cases. While the interstates in Marion County were generally slick, but passable, many residential streets are like skating rinks, with the dry snow that gave at least some traction gone, replaced by a solid, thick sheen of ice. With temperatures expected to stay in the single-digits on Tuesday, there is not much road crews can do to improve the situation. Only warmer temperatures will help with that.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 30 counties in central Indiana were still under travel warnings, meaning that travel was restricted to emergency workers only. Many more counties remain under a travel watch, meaning that only essential travel to and from work and emergency travel is recommended. Road conditions are better in southern Indiana, but worse in northern Indiana, where Interstate 65 remains closed between Lafayette and Merrillville after it was opened for a few hours on Monday and is expected to reopen sometime Tuesday. “Indiana State Police and INDOT officials are working closely together as a plan is being formulated to get this stretch of roadway reopened,” ISP said in a statement. Blowing and drifting of snow made I-65 totally impassable, cutting central Indiana off from Chicago.

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Indianapolis Power and Light company still reports 13,000 without power as of 9:30 this morning from a high yesterday of more than 30,000. A 69-point drop. That’s what New York suffered as the city awoke to a wind chill temperature of 14 below zero on Tuesday — down from a wind chill temperature of 55 on Monday. And that’s just a tiny pinpoint on a largely frozen solid nation.  From Boston to Washington to Atlanta, the polar vortex kept swinging Tuesday, a frozen ice chest hovering over more than 100 million people. Temperatures in many areas were in the single digits, and well below zero with wind chills.

In the Deep South, hard freeze warnings were in effect from eastern Texas to the Florida Panhandle. Farmers in Florida were keeping an eye on crops, concerned about a possible freeze. Authorities have blamed at least 15 deaths on the cold so far, including 11 from traffic accidents and two involving hypothermia. It’s even too cold for polar bears and penguins. At Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, Anana — a polar bear who never grew the thick layer of fat that bears in the Arctic do — had to be brought inside Monday. And at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, bald eagles and African penguins, “who are used to temperate climates,” were taken off exhibit until the weather warms up, the facility reported.

The nasty winter weather left 500 people stranded on three Amtrak trains overnight in northern Illinois, an Amtrak spokesman said. The Bureau County Sheriff’s Office said it responded Monday night after the trains were reportedly stuck in snowdrifts. The Mendota Police Department received a report from Amtrak around 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) about a train stuck about 4 miles west of the city, Sgt. Ken Haun said. Officers tried to reach the train but couldn’t because of the weather. Amtrak worked to make other arrangements, putting some passengers on buses.

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On one train, which was stuck near Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 300 passengers had to wait more than nine hours to reach their destination, CNN affiliate WXMI reported. “It was kind of like purgatory,” a passenger told CNN affiliate WLS, adding that it was “not quite hellish because there was good company.” The train, which was bound for Chicago, finally arrived at the city’s Union Station on Monday night, WLS reported. Two thousand flights were canceled within, into or out of the United States on Tuesday morning, according to flightaware.com.

New York resident Mindy Goldberg said her family’s flight back from Mexico had been diverted to Boston because of the weather. “I just called my kids’ school to tell them they wouldn’t be there, and she said, ‘Everyone’s stuck somewhere,’ ” Goldberg told CNN affiliate WBZ. In Indianapolis, Los Angeles resident Jason Bentley decided to play in the snow outside the airport after learning that his flight home had been canceled Sunday. It was 15 below zero (26 below zero C). “This is the wettest snow I’ve ever touched,” Bentley said, “the easiest snow to make a snowman and to have snowball fights. It’s also probably the worst (weather) I’ve ever been in because of the temperature.”

Extreme wind chills mean flesh can freeze in as little as five minutes. Several major school districts are closed Tuesday, including those in Minneapolis and Atlanta, to prevent children from waiting outside at bus stops. Chicago also opened up 12 centers for residents trying to stay warm, one of which was to stay open through Tuesday. Libraries and some other city facilities would also be open, said Evelyn Diaz of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services. Quinn said 100 warming centers were open statewide. Temperatures should start edging closer to normal starting Wednesday. By Thursday, most of the country will be back to normal, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said. In fact, some temperatures may even be a bit higher.

CNN contributed to this report.

Posted January 7, 2014 by dmnewsi in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

DMN: AM AMERICA TUESDAY

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Deep freeze speeding east, south

Gripping Midwest with sub-zero temps, wind chills in many places; setting sights on Mid-Atlantic and as far south as Ga., Ala., even Fla.

Ice builds up along Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach as temperatures<br />
dipped well below zero on January 6, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago<br />
hit a record low of  -16 degree Fahrenheit this morning as a polar air<br />
mass brought the coldest temperatures in about two decades into the<br />
city.&nbsp;” src=”http://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2014/01/07/f439260e-6712-4f13-826b-80cc1f8a5bed/thumbnail/620×350/ice_freeze_chicago_46102110.jpg?hash=f85da9acfdad96abea16d5e2447f9c26″ /></a></figure>
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<ul>
<li><a href=REPORTERS NOTEBOOK: WHAT…EXACTLY…IS A POLAR VORTEX?
  • INDIANA GOVERNOR DECLARES DISASTER STATUS FOR 29 COUNTIES
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