It has come to our attention through information that we've recieved that there was a person informing to the FBI about numerous individuals involved in the Wild Rose Rebellion group and University Of Iowa Anti-War Committee. He has since been outed, confronted and ousted from our community. The purpose of this statement is to warn all radical organizations and people, that we don't have personal ties with, across the country about the following person. Anything identifying or useful pertaining to him we have attempted to include.
Name: Jason Munford, also later went by Valvilis Cormaeril
Age: Late Twenties
From: Mighigan, Iowa City
Background: Claimed he served in the Air Force as a MP stationed in Japan, then became a Conscientious Objector.
Interests: Considers self a Platonist, sword fighting, philisophy, informing for FBI
Charecteristics: clean cut, dry sense of humor, known to be problematic (overly flirty and pushy) when it comes to female bodied people.
P.S.-Don't Get Scared, Get Inspired!
When Nevada City resident U. Utah Phillips died at the age of 73 on May 23, America lost one of its last great traveling folk singers. Like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger before him, Phillips combined progressive activism with traditional folk music and a genuine love for the common man into an art form that enamored him with a large audience of like-minded individuals across the country.
However, in the 1960s, the same leftist political beliefs Phillips would channel into a career spanning nearly four decades caught the attention of a very different audience: the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which placed Phillips on its “security index,” a list of people to be monitored as possible security threats, according to FBI documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
Born Bruce Duncan Phillips, the native of Utah first came to the FBI’s attention in 1961, when he was part of the group Life for Garcia, calling for the commutation of the death sentence of a convicted murderer (it eventually was commuted). By the mid-1960s, Phillips was showing up at anti-Vietnam War rallies, where he often participated by singing union and anti-war songs.
The FBI duly noted his attendance, as well as the sponsoring groups’ relationship, always highly tangential, with the Communist Party of Utah.
Meanwhile, the FBI was interviewing Phillips’ co-workers at the Utah State Historical Society in Salt Lake City, where he was an archivist. One informant said he considered Phillips “self-centered; that his peace and related ideas have the basic purpose of attracting attention to himself, and that he does not think through his activities and attitudes.”
Another noted that Phillips was “an adequate employee but [was] a problem to the state because of his interest in peace activities and anti-capital-punishment activities.”
Under the heading “Miscellaneous Subversive Activities,” the dossier noted Phillips’ attendance at meetings of the Utah Council for Constitutional Liberties and the Public Affairs Forum of Utah County, two groups focused largely on anti-war activities. He also attended meetings of the April Committee, a student anti-war group, and other similar groups. The FBI apparently had informants at all of them.
In February 1968, Phillips organized the People’s Party and became its chairman. Soon renamed the Poor People’s Party, it had a goal of getting candidates on the November ballot. By July, it had merged with the Peace and Freedom Party of California.
At a state convention held August 24, Phillips was selected to run for the U.S. Senate. He did so only after party members agreed to come up with the $480 a month in lost income when he took a leave of absence from his archivist job. Phillips traveled the state campaigning, with the FBI dogging his trail much of the time. After the election, in which he got just under 2 percent of the vote, he was out of a job.
During the years when Phillips was under surveillance, the FBI talked with him twice. On August 2, 1967, he told agents he was engaged in civil-rights, anti-Vietnam and related activities, and that he “deplore[d] any resort to extremism which could involve violation of law or violence,” according to FBI documents. And on January 2, 1968, he described his anti-war goals, adding that he was “personally opposed to communists, as are most of the peace people.”
What’s clear from the FBI reports is that the agency had an almost pathological obsession about the doings of the Communist Party USA, a group that by 1968 had little influence and dwindling numbers. Clearly, though, it served as a raison d’être—a kind of full-employment act, so to speak—for the FBI, which spent vast sums of money chasing down what amounted to ephemera.
Phillips believed he was blackballed from his job with the state archives after his Senate run, but the loss turned out to be fortuitous, since it provided him the opportunity to pursue his music full time.
At any rate, the FBI files show that the agency never really had a reason to scrutinize Utah Phillips. In February 1969, after Phillips left Utah and embarked on his music career, the bureau acknowledged as much. That’s when it decided he no longer met the criteria for the security index and stopped spying on him.
Home from what he calls the "wilds" of Afghanistan, Pittsburgh FBI Chief Division Counsel Jeff Killeen climbed into a colleague's car at the airport for the ride to the South Side office.
As Agent Bill Crowley drove, he noticed something different about his friend.
In addition to being 10 pounds lighter, Agent Killeen was a bit twitchy, glancing over his right shoulder and looking out the window as if he expected to see something bad.
Turns out he was.
Out of reflex, he was checking for suicide car bombers -- the main threat to any American on the chaotic roads of Kabul.
"Crowley said that I was 'on edge,' " said Agent Killeen, 56. "You're constantly looking for threats over there."
The jumpiness has worn off since that day in late November.
But Agent Killeen, a supervisory agent and 14-year veteran of the Pittsburgh office, would gladly return to the Afghan capital, where he spent nearly five months investigating war profiteering as part of the International Contract Corruption Task Force.
"Afghanistan has always piqued my interest," he said. "To me, it was a great opportunity. If someone said you have to go back in 10 minutes, I'd say I'll do it in five."
Duty in Kabul inspires many federal agents because the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were carried out from Afghanistan and al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is still believed to be hiding in the mountains near the Pakistan border.
The link to 9/11 is direct, and for Agent Killeen, so are the consequences of a U.S. failure to tame the insurgency that threatens Kabul from all sides.
"If this place is abandoned to the Taliban," he said, "it will foster a potential return for terror groups to train and possibly do a repeat of 9/11."
While he described the country as "a mess," he was gratified to be part of an effort to restore stability by cracking down on massive fraud by U.S. and Afghani contractors.
FBI agents from around the country are pulling voluntary four-month rotations on the task force, working with the Department of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies.
Packed into rooms near the U.S. embassy compound, surrounded by suicide bombings, shootings and the occasional 4 a.m. rocket attack nearby, agents piece together the paper trail of billions of dollars worth of contracts awarded for roads, power plants and other projects while seeking evidence of fraud.
Afghanistan, a country battered by war and poverty for generations but now flush with U.S. and foreign aid, has become a land of bribery and bid-rigging.
"It's just a way of life," said Agent Killeen. "It's endemic in modern Afghanistan. It's absolutely pervasive. When I was there I saw it first-hand."
Dozens of complex white-collar cases are in the pipeline for prosecution in the U.S. courts. These investigations often take years to develop and most have yet to reach the indictment stage.
But one notable case that has received public attention in the United States involves a Houston security company, United States Protection and Investigations LLC, indicted in October on charges of fraud and conspiracy.
Federal prosecutors said the company owners in Houston, Barbara Spier and her husband, Dwayne Spier; their operations manager in Afghanistan, William Felix Dupre, of North Carolina; and executive assistant Behzad Mehr stole $3 million from the U.S. government.
Agents said Mr. Mehr fabricated invoices from rental and fuel companies in Afghanistan while the company created false documents to inflate expenses for employing security personnel from the Afghan Ministry of Interior.
The Spiers and Mr. Dupre used the false documents to get reimbursed by USAID, according to the indictment.
Another big case playing out in federal court in Chicago shows that the military itself is sometimes part of the problem.
In August, two U.S. servicemen were charged with accepting nearly $100,000 in bribes to arrange defense contracts for Afghani companies at Bagram Airfield.
Agent Killeen, who helped wrap up loose ends for the Houston investigation, said he's not allowed to talk about pending prosecutions.
But he said the kind of fraud perpetrated in those two cases is business as usual in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, where the task force also operates.
So many Afghanis are trying to grease palms that someone, somewhere is likely to take the bait.
"If you put out enough lines you're going to catch a fish," he said of U.S. personnel accepting payoffs. "There is so much money over there."
Working white-collar fraud cases in Afghanistan, however, isn't quite the same as doing it in, say, Pittsburgh.
Before he left, Agent Killeen spent two weeks training at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va., practicing such skills as "getting off the X" -- or learning to recognize threats quickly enough to escape.
Much of the course involved evasive driving to avoid being boxed in on choked roadways, since most of the danger in Afghanistan is on the roads.
Quantico trainers also gave agents a copy of "The Gift of Fear," a 1998 best seller by security specialist Gavin de Becker that instructs readers to trust their instincts in realizing when violence is about to erupt.
Agent Killeen also made sure he was in top shape, a requirement of all the agents heading overseas. That wasn't a problem for the self-described "workout-aholic" who hits the gym in the FBI building almost every day.
He found the training paid off, too, because in the streets of Kabul he carried about 60 pounds of gear, including emergency medical equipment, flak jacket, M-4 assault rifle, 200 rounds of ammo and a sidearm.
Fitness may have also helped him deal with 16-hour workdays and what agents call the "Kabul Crud."
After about eight days in the country, many Americans get sick from the swirling dust, the lack of sanitation and the strange food. While parts of Kabul are modern, areas on the outskirts and in the mountains are almost medieval.
"We called it the Day 8 Syndrome," he said. "It's just a question of how sick you're going to get."
Liberal doses of Cipro, a powerful antibiotic, kept most of them on their feet, including Agent Killeen. But some American personnel were laid up for days or weeks.
The hostile environment also presented a challenge in how agents did their jobs.
Often they would head out into the city of 5 million people to track down leads, gather business records and interview Afghani businessmen with the help of an interpreter. Agent Killeen speaks Russian and German but not Dari, the main Afghan language.
But few streets are named. People tend to say they live near some landmark, such as a police station, but without an address it can take all day to find a building or an individual.
"That was a difficulty -- just trying to find people," said Agent Killeen. "Sometimes, if you ran down one lead in a day that was a good day."
Agent Killeen, whose resume includes stints as a street agent in Minneapolis and working counter-intelligence cases in New York City, has been in dicey situations before, but in Kabul he said he felt a constant uneasiness.
He lived with another agent in a Conex Box -- essentially a temporary trailer -- near the embassy and was regularly subjected to "duck and cover" rocket attacks nearby.
Outside the wire, he traveled alone with his partner in an armored vehicle and encountered guards carrying AK-47s outside nearly every government building and business. In addition to the Afghan army and local police, many businessmen employ armed bodyguards.
Yet as dangerous as Kabul is, no FBI agents have been killed there or in Iraq. For Agent Killeen, the irony is that a fellow agent did die during his tour -- in Pittsburgh.
The day before he left Afghanistan, Agent Sam Hicks was shot to death during a drug arrest in Indiana Township.
Christina Korbe, 40, has been charged with second-degree murder and other offenses in the slaying.
As chief counsel for the FBI's Pittsburgh division, Agent Killeen has been contributing to that investigation. Agent Hicks, who had often stopped by his office to seek advice, was the first Pittsburgh FBI agent to die in the line of duty.
WASHINGTON – Taxpayers were billed an average of $45,000 in overtime and extra pay for each FBI agent temporarily posted to Iraq over the course of four years, according to a new Justice Department report. In some cases, agents were paid to watch movies, exercise and attend parties.
In all, the audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found the FBI racked up $7.8 million in improper wages between 2003 and 2007.
Thursday's report blamed a faulty FBI policy that allowed agents to claim the extra time and money. An FBI spokesman said that policy — which initially sought to enlist volunteers to go to dangerous war zones — is no longer in place.
"Several FBI employees noted that they periodically spent time during the work day washing clothes," the report noted. Asked whether he should have been paid for the time spent in this activity, one employee defended the practice, saying "'When you're in that environment, anything you do to survive is work for the FBI.'"
Other agents defended being paid to go to a regular Saturday night cocktail party, calling it an important "liaison" meeting. And in another case, one supervisor said he "had to laugh" when he saw how many agents were assigned to the office tasked with preparing evidence for court trials of Saddam Hussein and his associates.
"Maybe they needed extra poker players," said the unnamed supervisor.
The report concluded: "We found that, on the whole, few if any employees worked exactly 16 hours a day, every day, for 90 days straight, within the meaning of the term 'work' as it is used in applicable regulations and policies."
Since March 2003, the FBI has temporarily deployed 1,150 agents and other employees to Iraq, usually for three-month periods. Fine's investigators reviewed the time and attendance records for each.
Over the four-year period, the report found, the FBI spent $63 million in overtime and extra pay for employees in Iraq — $7.8 million of which was improperly billed.
In a statement, FBI Assistant Director John Miller said the now-defunct policy was only supposed to be a short-time pay solution in the early days of the war. He said managers at FBI headquarters "allowed a flawed system to develop and remain in place too long."
"FBI employees lived with sniper attacks, mortar fire, and roadside bombs as part of their daily work environment," Miller said. He said FBI managers "attempted to adapt a long established, domestic pay system for domestic law enforcement to unprecedented wartime assignments for FBI personnel."
Fine's investigation found that agents claimed at least eight hours of overtime a day, every day, for the three months they were stationed in Iraq. Until this year, FBI supervisors in the United States routinely approved the hours billed, despite having no personal knowledge of the time the agents were working.
The report also rapped the FBI for failing to maintain accurate records of overtime costs.
Similarly, FBI agents in Afghanistan also misused overtime and extra pay allowances, but to a lesser extent, the report found.
But FBI agents were not the only culprits, Fine concluded. Also misusing extra pay and attendance policies in Iraq and Afghanistan — but in a more limited way — were agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; The Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service.
January 26, 2009
By ALLAN NAIRN
If you're lying on the slab still breathing, with your torturer hanging over you, you don't much care if he is an American or a mere United States - sponsored trainee.
When President Obama declared flatly this week that "the United States will not torture" many people wrongly believed that he'd shut the practice down, when in fact he'd merely repositioned it.
Obama's Executive Order bans some -- not all -- US officials from torturing but it does not ban any of them, himself included, from sponsoring torture overseas.
Indeed, his policy change affects only a slight percentage of US-culpable tortures and could be completely consistent with an increase in US-backed torture worldwide.
The catch lies in the fact that since Vietnam, when US forces often tortured directly, the US has mainly seen its torture done for it by proxy -- paying, arming, training and guiding foreigners doing it, but usually being careful to keep Americans at least one discreet step removed.
That is, the US tended to do it that way until Bush and Cheney changed protocol, and had many Americans laying on hands, and sometimes taking digital photos.
The result was a public relations fiasco that enraged the US establishment since by exposing US techniques to the world it diminished US power.
But despite the outrage, the fact of the matter was that the Bush/Cheney tortures being done by Americans were a negligible percentage of all of the tortures being done by US clients.
For every torment inflicted directly by Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and the secret prisons, there were many times more being meted out by US-sponsored foreign forces.
Those forces were and are operating with US military, intelligence, financial or other backing in Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Jordan, Indonesia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Nigeria, and the Philippines, to name some places, not to mention the tortures sans-American-hands by the US-backed Iraqis and Afghans.
What the Obama dictum ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system's torture, which is done by foreigners under US patronage.
Obama could stop backing foreign forces that torture, but he has chosen not to do so.
His Executive Order instead merely pertains to treatment of "...an individual in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government, or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States, in any armed conflict..." which means that it doesn't even prohibit direct torture by Americans outside environments of "armed conflict," which is where much torture happens anyway since many repressive regimes aren't in armed conflict.
And even if, as Obama says, "the United States will not torture," it can still pay, train, equip and guide foreign torturers, and see to it that they, and their US patrons, don't face local or international justice.
This is a return to the status quo ante, the torture regime of Ford through Clinton, which, year by year, often produced more US-backed strapped-down agony than was produced during the Bush/Cheney years.
Under the old -- now new again -- proxy regime Americans would, say, teach interrogation/torture, then stand in the next room as the victims screamed, feeding questions to their foreign pupils. That's the way the US did it in El Salvador under JFK through Bush Sr. (For details see my "Behind the Death Squads: An exclusive report on the U.S. role in El Salvador’s official terror," The Progressive, May, 1984 ; the US Senate Intelligence Committee report that piece sparked is still classified, but the feeding of questions was confirmed to me by Intelligence Committee Senators. See also my "Confessions of a Death Squad Officer," The Progressive, March, 1986, and my "Comment," The New Yorker, Oct. 15, 1990,[regarding law, the US, and El Salvador]).
In Guatemala under Bush Sr. and Clinton (Obama's foreign policy mentors) the US backed the army's G-2 death squad which kept comprehensive files on dissidents and then electroshocked them or cut off their hands. (The file/ surveillance system was launched for them in the '60s and '70s by CIA/ State/ AID/ special forces; for the history see "Behind the Death Squads," cited above, and the books of Prof. Michael McClintock).
The Americans on the ground in the Guatemalan operation, some of whom I encountered and named, effectively helped to run the G-2 but, themselves, tiptoed around its torture chambers. (See my "C.I.A. Death Squad," The Nation [US], April 17, 1995, "The Country Team," The Nation [US], June 5, 1995, letter exchange with US Ambassador Stroock, The Nation [US], May 29, 1995, and Allan Nairn and Jean-Marie Simon, "Bureaucracy of Death," The New Republic, June 30, 1986).
It was a similar story in Bush Sr. and Clinton's Haiti -- an operation run by today's Obama people -- where the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) helped launch the terrorist group FRAPH, the CIA paid its leader, and FRAPH itsef laid the machetes on Haitian civilians, torturing and killing as US proxies. (See my "Behind Haiti's paramilitaries: our man in FRAPH," The Nation [US], Oct 24, 1994, and "He's our S.O.B.," The Nation [US], Oct. 31, 1994; the story was later confirmed on ABC TV's "This Week" by US Secretary of State Warren Christopher).
In today's Thailand -- a country that hardly comes to mind when most people think of torture -- special police and militaries get US gear and training for things like "target selection" and then go out and torture Thai Malay Muslms in the rebel deep south, and also sometimes (mainly Buddhist) Burmese refugees and exploited northern and west coast workers.
Not long ago I visited a key Thai interrogator who spoke frankly about army/ police/ intel torture and then closed our discussion by saying "Look at this," and invited me into his back room.
It was an up to date museum of plaques, photos and awards from US and Western intelligence, including commendations from the CIA counter-terrorism center (then run by people now staffing Obama), one-on-one photos with high US figures, including George W. Bush, a medal from Bush, various US intel/ FBI/ military training certificates, a photo of him with an Israeli colleague beside a tank in the Occupied Territories, and Mossad, Shin Bet, Singaporean, and other interrogation implements and mementos.
On my way out, the Thai intel man remarked that he was due to re-visit Langley soon.
His role is typical. There are thousands like him worldwide. US proxy torture dwarfs that at Guantanamo.
Many Americans, to their credit, hate torture. The Bush/Cheney escapade exposed that.
But to stop it they must get the facts and see that Obama's ban does not stop it, and indeed could even accord with an increase in US-sponsored torture crime.
In lieu of action, the system will grind on tonight. More shocks, suffocations, deep burns. And the convergence of thousands of complex minds on one simple thought: 'Please, let me die.'
Allan Nairn writes the blog News and Comment at http://www.newsc.blogspot.com.
The federal government has no knowledge" that a Canadian took part in the 2002 torture and interrogation of a suspected terrorist in Morocco, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Friday.
The lawyer for Binyam Mohamed, a British national who was arrested in Pakistan and is now at the U. S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says his client refused to talk to his American interrogators before a woman calling herself Sarah the Canadian" stepped in.
Mohamed's diary says the woman told him the Americans were getting ready to torture him if he didn't co-operate. The woman-- whom Mohamed says he never believed was Canadian -- left and the Briton says he was tortured.
The Government of Canada has in the past objected strongly in instances where foreign agents claimed alleged links to Canada," Cannon said in a brief statement during question period in the Commons.
New Democrat MP Paul Dewar, who questioned Cannon on the story -- which first surfaced several years ago -- said he trusts the interrogator wasn't actually a Canadian.
But in light of the fact that this was our reputation on the international stage being sullied, I want to know what the government has done to make sure that our reputation is actually solid here," Dewar told reporters.
He said he wants an investigation into the matter.
He also suggested Prime Minister Stephen Harper raise the issue with Barack Obama when the newly minted president visits Ottawa on Feb. 19.
Mohamed's lawyer, Zachary Katznelson, says his client was subjected to absolutely brutal, horrific torture and anyone who played a role in that, big or small, has to answer criminally and morally."
In documents filed with the U. S. Court of Appeals in Washington in January 2006, Katznelson wrote that Mohamed, a suspected al-Qaida agent, was tortured during interrogations by FBI agents in Pakistan and Morocco.
He said he was taken to Islamabad before he was rendered to Morocco, where the Moroccan agents who tortured and interrogated him said they were acting on the Americans' behalf.
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Sarah" claimed to be an impartial third party" from Canada and warned him in a blase manner: If you don't talk to me, then the Americans are getting ready to carry out the torture. They're going to electrocute you, beat you and rape you."
Mohamed, who had already been cleared by British authorities, told them he had nothing to say.
He was subsequently held down and beaten for hours by masked men. The beatings and torture went on for more than 18 months, he said.
By KEN RITTER – 13 hours ago
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A man who claims to be a former FBI informant has filed a $54 million federal lawsuit against the government, saying his life is in danger because his identity was compromised after he went undercover to help the agency.
"I was disclosed," said Anthony Martin, 63, who described himself as a retired bank robber and convicted felon.
Martin said he volunteered to work undercover for the FBI after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He said he was installed as a taxi driver in Las Vegas and provided information that led to the arrests and convictions of at least four "people entering the country illegally" on charges including fabricating false passports.
But while filing a complaint in 2004, he said, a Las Vegas police officer checked a computer database and addressed him as Lee McKnight, the name he gave up when he entered the federal witness protection program.
"I got a promise that my old name would never be disclosed, and it should not have," Martin said. "They intentionally put me in danger."
Martin, who is representing himself in court, claims breach of contract, breach of oral agreement and violations of constitutional free speech, equal protection and the right against cruel and unusual punishment. He filed the civil lawsuit on Jan. 29 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
He is seeking $6 million in damages from each of nine defendants: the FBI and FBI Director Robert Mueller, the U.S. Marshals Service and witness protection program chief Thomas Wight, the federal Department of Homeland Security and its former chief, Michael Chertoff, and the Justice Department and former attorneys general Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales.
The Justice Department would represent the defendants, department spokesman Charles Miller said Friday. He declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying his department had not received a copy.
The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service in Las Vegas also declined comment.
Martin said he quit the witness protection program in Beaumont, Texas, because it didn't pay him enough but believed the government would continue to protect his identity. He made public a copy of a letter from Wight stating that Martin "voluntarily terminated" from witness protection in July 1992.
"While you are no longer a witness in good standing," the letter said, "it appears that for humanitarian reasons this office provided you with a new name birth certificate" and a certificate of discharge from active military duty.
Martin said he now collects disability for physical ailments and mental stress and helps train young fighters at a gym. Details of his past were not immediately available, but he said he had served 18 years in prisons in New York, Nevada, Minnesota and Wisconsin for crimes including armed robbery and bank robbery.
The lawsuit claims that the "Plaintiff was exposed. ... with dual identities, a criminal record and felony status ... thus jeopardizing his life."
"I want a fair hearing in court to present my side," Martin said. "Let them present their side. Not in the newspaper."
The disclosure of an informant's name faces penalty that includes prison time. Former Vice President Dick Cheney's then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison after being convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to the FBI about his role in leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's name and CIA affiliation to a reporter.
Former President Bush commuted the sentence, sparing Libby from serving prison time.
prison, far from the Brooklyn haunts where his name was scrawled in blood, Anthony Casso stews. He stews over old vendettas. He stews over betrayals of the flesh - heart problems and prostate cancer.
Casso, the once fearsome underboss of the Lucchese family who is now serving multiple life sentences amounting to 455 years for murder, stews over his secrets: unsolved crimes that, he says in an outpouring of letters, he is eager to help close if only he could show the authorities where the bodies are buried (especially if it entails a trip outside the gates).
“I would go out there in a heartbeat,” Casso said on Friday in a telephone call to a former detective seeking the mobster’s help in clearing his own name.
As much as he hopes for a taste of freedom, or a reduction of his sentence, prosecutors question what his information may be worth and what perils may lie in reopening contact with an antagonist some compare to the fictional monster Hannibal Lecter.
Dangling as a prize is the answer to one of New York’s most scandalous mysteries: how 400 pounds of heroin and cocaine, much of it seized in the so-called French Connection drug bust in 1962, were spirited out of the police property vault for resale back on the street. By the time the record theft was discovered in December 1972, the drugs - then valued at $73 million - had been replaced with flour and cornstarch.
Who committed the deed? “There were four narcotics detectives,” Casso wrote the former detective, Pat Intrieri, in October, amplifying information he offered in his 2008 biography. “One worked inside the property clerk’s office.” One, he added, was later shot to death; Casso said he remembers where the gun was thrown.
Casso, 66, whose mob nickname was Gaspipe, says he is having trouble with exact locations. So, naturally, he would like to get out, if only for a day, to be helpful. Or at least win some leniency along the lines of a plea deal he says the government reneged on: six and a half years in prison.
“Of course he’d like to get out - he’s serving 55 million years,” said Michael F. Vecchione, chief of the rackets division in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. Like other prosecutors, Vecchione has little stomach for Casso. But without any promises, he has arranged to visit Casso on Tuesday at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, where he has been undergoing cancer treatment, although it would take corroboration far beyond the mobster’s word to make any case.
“I bet you when the state guys come, they don’t know half the things,” Casso said on Friday to Intrieri, who relayed his remarks to the New York Times.
There is little chance that Casso, now 15 years behind the stoutest walls America can contrive, will ever see his release - not after pleading guilty in 15 murders and being tied to some 22 others.
He has also been accused of plotting to kill a federal judge and prosecutors, and violating the terms of his agreement to turn informant as one of the highest-level mobsters ever to flip - becoming the only major Mafia defector to be thrown out of the federal witness protection program.
Casso has also waffled on whether he corrupted an F.B.I. agent and hired two New York City police detectives, Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, as mob assassins. The former detectives are to be sentenced on March 6 on racketeering charges.
If, moreover, he still wonders why the authorities are leery of his offers, Casso may have provided the answer to his biographer, Philip Carlo. In his 2008 book, “Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss,” Carlo, a longtime friend of the Casso family, outlined several of the mobster’s escape schemes, including the planned ambush of a van carrying him back from court after his capture in New Jersey in 1993.
“He’s where he should be,” said Gregory O’Connell, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn who initially interviewed Casso with his late partner, Charles Rose, and called him “the most treacherous sociopath we ever dealt with.”
But a man can dream, and for Casso, that means being back once again in the Brooklyn sunshine, pinpointing old Mafia execution grounds and the watery grave of a murder weapon. Not rising at 5 a.m. every day to meticulously clean his cell in a federal “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, that also houses the likes of the Unabomber, Theodore J. Kaczynski; the Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols; and such fellow mobsters as Gregory Scarpa, Jr., and Salvatore Gravano, known as Sammy the Bull.
“I think he got a raw deal,” said Joshua L. Dratel, the latest of Casso’s many lawyers. Dratel said Casso was “poor at playing the system” and threatened major cases by exposing Gravano and other government witnesses and federal agents as liars. Casso has long claimed that the records of his F.B.I. debriefings, never made public, would show that the government covered up his warnings of moles in its ranks and that to get out of their plea deal with him, prosecutors used other Mafia turncoats as witnesses instead.
Perhaps Casso’s staunchest pen pal is Intrieri, 79, a onetime decorated New York detective lieutenant who was convicted of tax evasion in 1976 in the aftermath of the French Connection drug thefts. Intrieri, who has drafted a memoir asserting his innocence, saw new information on the case in Carlo’s book and said he found Casso’s accounts of unsolved crimes credible.
“He wants to get out a little bit, I guess; he’s going stir-crazy,” said Intrieri, after getting more than a dozen phone calls from Casso in recent weeks. “But his goal is a sentence reduction.”
The drugs at the core of the mystery - popularized as “The French Connection” in a 1969 book by Robin Moore and an Academy Award-winning film that followed two years later - were secreted in compartments in a 1960 Buick loaded aboard the liner United States sailing from Le Havre, France, to New York. The car and its 112 pounds of heroin were later claimed by a Lucchese family underling, Patsy Fuca, who, as it happened, was being tailed by a pair of dogged New York narcotics detectives, Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso.
The drug bust in January 1962 was widely hailed as a record. But the heroics proved short-lived. In six thefts between March 1969 and January 1972, someone signing the register as Detective Joseph Nunziata, a member of the narcotics bureau’s widely corrupt special investigations unit, and using fictitious badge numbers, removed the French Connection drugs along with another 300 pounds of heroin and cocaine from the police property vault at 400 Broome Street (now a New York University dorm).
Handwriting analysis and a discovered fingerprint never established that Detective Nunziata actually signed the police register. But eight months before the thefts were discovered, Detective Nunziata, charged with corruption in an unrelated case, was found shot to death in his car. It was ruled a suicide.
Moore, the author, wrote that as far back as 1967, he and Detectives Nunziata, Egan and Grosso joked about stealing the French Connection heroin.
Many suspects emerged, including Vincent Papa, a major drug dealer; Frank King, a retired narcotics detective and private eye working for Papa; and Intrieri, who upon his retirement had joined King as a bodyguard for one of Papa’s sons - “the biggest mistake of my life,” Intrieri now says. (Papa’s lawyer was overheard on a wiretap asking King, “Do we have anything to worry about the handwriting analysis?”) After providing what he thought was confidential information on four corrupt narcotics detectives, Papa was stabbed to death in prison.
Also under scrutiny was Vincent Albano, another former narcotics detective, who had served under Intrieri and had survived a mysterious hail of bullets in 1969, only to be slain in 1985.
Thomas P. Puccio, then a Brooklyn federal prosecutor, focused on King and Intrieri, but failed to tie them to the drug thefts. Puccio charged them instead with tax evasion for unexplained income, winning convictions and five-year sentences for both, along with three years for tax evasion by Albano. But the case remained a puzzle, Puccio conceded in an interview. “We never really conclusively solved it,” he said.
Still indignant over his conviction more than 30 years later, Intrieri - who held 15 police citations for bravery and valor - saw in Carlo’s book that Casso had named Albano and a mob associate as two of the French Connection thieves. The book related how Albano had been shot to death in Brooklyn in 1985,and how Casso had supplied the gun and helped dump the body on Staten Island.
Carlo, in an interview, said Casso had told him Albano had conceived the drug heist and asked Casso how to carry it out.
Intrieri, in his own manuscript, “The French Connection: The Aftermath,” told of running into Albano several times over the years - including in 1980 while Albano was casing a Queens bank - and said that Albano had laughed at hearing that Intrieri was a suspect in the drug thefts.
By opening an exchange of letters with Casso - a correspondence that grew to include this reporter - Intrieri elicited other details, and other crimes.
Casso offered details of the 1986 car bombing aimed at John Gotti that killed his Gambino family underboss, Frank DeCicco; the killing of a Russian mob associate, Michael Markowitz, in 1989; and the apparently unreported killing of a Jewish drug importer near Albano’s office around 1980, among other crimes.
Officials at the Federal Medical Center in North Carolina did not respond to repeated requests to interview Casso by phone.
“I’ll be here awhile receiving treatments for prostate cancer,” Casso wrote Intrieri in December. “Just my luck.”
As for the gun that killed Albano, Casso supplied a hand-drawn map with imperfect punctuation showing, he said, where it had been thrown: “Its in Sheepshead Bay.”
He also sketched a site where, he said, another mob victim was buried, calling it: “Drawing for the Colombians remains.”
2:00 a.m. March 2, 2009
Dr. Cyril Wecht, a well-known forensic pathologist, was a consultant in the cases of San Diego-area homicide victims Stephanie Crowe and Danielle van Dam. Wecht writes about both in his book, “A Question of Murder.”
Stephanie Crowe: After 12-year-old Stephanie was stabbed to death in her Escondido home in 1998, her brother and two friends were charged. The case fell apart when the girl's blood was found on a transient's clothing. Wecht said the case is a startling example of police misconduct.
Danielle van Dam: A few weeks after the 7-year-old went missing from her Sabre Springs home in 2002, her body was found off an East County road. A neighbor, David Westerfield, was convicted and sentenced to death. Wecht said the case exposed flaws in entomology evidence, which is now viewed with more skepticism.
Killed four years apart, Stephanie Crowe and Danielle van Dam are joined in San Diego County's collective consciousness, maybe forever, as the tragic victims in nationally known homicide cases.
The slayings are featured in a new book by one of America's most famous and controversial forensic pathologists, Dr. Cyril Wecht. He devotes a chapter to each in “A Question of Murder,” providing an insider's view, if no major revelations.
Wecht, 77, who lives in Pittsburgh, played a behind-the-scenes role in both cases as a consultant. He said in a phone interview he found them fascinating for what they said about the power of forensic science – and its limitations.
“Despite what people are led to believe by the 'CSI' shows on TV, we're not absolute scientists, and we need to be reminded of that now and then,” Wecht said. “Anything dealing with the human body is not absolute science, except DNA.”
Wecht is familiar to true-crime junkies for his books – “Mortal Evidence,” “Tales from the Morgue,” “Cause of Death” – and for his frequent appearances on “Larry King Live” and other TV programs.
He has openly challenged the official version of John F. Kennedy's assassination, fueling theories that Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone. He has suggested that JonBenet Ramsey, the child beauty queen found dead in her Colorado basement, was killed accidentally by a relative.
He has been in the news himself recently, facing a possible retrial on charges of misusing the resources of the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office in Pennsylvania for his private consulting work.
In other words, he is accustomed to hot water. Now he is wading into the Crowe and van Dam cases, two of the most sensational homicides in recent San Diego County history.
Stephanie Crowe, 12, was stabbed to death in the bedroom of her Escondido home in January 1998. Her brother, Michael, and two of his friends were arrested. The case collapsed on the eve of trial after drops of the girl's blood were found on clothes worn by a transient seen in the neighborhood the night of the slaying.
The transient, Richard Tuite, eventually was charged in the case and convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Tuite is serving 13 years in state prison.
Wecht was hired by Milt Silverman, an attorney representing the Crowe family in a false-arrest lawsuit.
“He's probably one of the top three forensic guys in the country,” Silverman said. “I wanted someone who had the gravitas to put his reputation on the line and say, 'This is what happened.' ”
Wecht, who has degrees in medicine and law, said his review of the case convinced him that Tuite, not the teens, killed Stephanie.
There were interesting forensic puzzles, he said, including time of death; whether a knife belonging to one of the teens could have been used in the stabbing; and whether the girl's body was moved after she died.
But what struck him most about the case was “the way the cops zeroed in on her brother and the two others without conducting a meaningful, encompassing investigation.”
Wecht said, “That case cries out to anybody who is interested in ethical conduct in our criminal-justice system. Police and prosecutorial bias, incompetence – those kinds of things happen with greater frequency than most of us want to acknowledge.”
In the van Dam case, 7-year-old Danielle went missing from her Sabre Springs home in February 2002. Her body was found a few weeks later off Dehesa Road east of El Cajon.
One of the family's neighbors, David Westerfield, was arrested. DNA evidence – including blood on his jacket and in his motor home – linked him to the girl. He was convicted of murder and is on death row.
Wecht was hired during the trial by defense attorney Steven Feldman to review the case. Wecht said he went to the site where the body was found and walked through Westerfield's home.
Wecht told the attorneys he had little to add to the case, especially because the condition of Danielle's body made it impossible to say when or how she died. They didn't call him as a witness.
In the book, he makes it clear he considers Westerfield guilty.
Forensics became a key controversy at trial, with entomology experts debating the time of death based on the life cycle of various insects found in Danielle's body.
A defense entomologist pinned the time of death to a period when Westerfield was under police surveillance, making it unlikely he could have killed her. Prosecution experts disagreed, and in the end the jury didn't put much stock in any of it.
As a result of the van Dam case, entomology evidence is viewed now with more skepticism, Wecht said.
“The experts are little more wary, a little less intellectually arrogant about the certainty of their findings,” he said.
Wecht's book, published last month, was co-authored by Dawna Kaufmann, a freelance journalist. In addition to the chapters on the local cases, it features looks at the deaths of Playboy model and actress Anna Nicole Smith; her son, Daniel Smith; and nine people at a hospital in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
But attorneys for Vo Duong Tran, 44, of New Orleans, said he was just playing along in an attempt to collect evidence on a man he thought was a criminal but turned out to be an FBI informant.
After more than three weeks of testimony, attorneys wrapped up closing arguments Friday in the trial of Tran and Yu Sung Park, who face federal charges of conspiracy to obstruct commerce by robbery, interstate travel to commit a crime with a firearm, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime and possession of a machine gun.
Tran and Park were arrested in July and accused of planning to rob what they believed was a Mexican drug courier's stash house in suburban Fountain Valley. But the house was actually part of an FBI sting and the man who had pitched the robbery scheme was an agency informant.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ivy Wang showed the jury a machine gun, a rifle equipped with a silencer, handguns, bulletproof vests, fatigues, zip ties, a black ski mask and more than 600 rounds of ammunition retrieved from a rental car and motel room used by the two men the day before the robbery was allegedly going to happen.
"They had these tools because they were ready to commit a home invasion robbery," Wang said. "They're not amateurs.
Authorities said the arrests followed a federal probe in which conversations were secretly taped for nearly six months. They said Tran flew from New Orleans to raid the home, where the informant had told him there was $300,000.
Tran was an FBI agent in Chicago for more than a decade before being fired in 2003.
Defense attorneys said Tran was passionate about his law enforcement career and was simply playing along with the robbery scheme to gather evidence on informant Alex Dao so he could turn him over to authorities.
"Mr. Tran was trying to gather information on somebody he believes is a criminal and should be turned over," Brian Steel, one of Tran's defense attorneys, told jurors. "He enjoyed law enforcement, he is still wrapped in it."
Park, 36, of Metairie, La., used to work at a cell phone store owned by Tran. He had come to Southern California to meet his former employer and played along when asked, said Yolanda Barrera, his defense attorney.
"Look at the language he's using," Barrera said of recordings where Park explained how to clear a house before a robbery. "That's straight from television. That's straight from video games."
If convicted, both men could face maximum sentences of up to life in prison, defense attorneys said.
Alex Kessel, one of Tran's attorneys, said his client was terminated from the FBI for identifying himself as an agent while he was on suspension—a charge for which later he wasn't convicted.
Kessel said the only reason an experienced former agent would carry these weapons, some which were registered to Tran, is because he didn't plan to commit a crime.
But prosecutors scoffed at that argument and replayed recorded conversations where the men discussed whether to handcuff residents during the robbery or shoot them. They also pointed out Tran never told police about his probe of Dao.
"The argument there's so many guns that it proves innocence is kind of an odd proposition," said Robert Keenan, an assistant U.S. attorney.
A former FBI agent suspected in a 2002 double murder in Chicago was convicted today in Southern California of charges that he planned to rip off a drug house.
A federal jury found Vo Duong “Ben” Tran guilty of all four counts related to the attempted rip-off. He faces life in prison.
Tran, 41, was snared in an FBI sting.
He planned to raid a California drug house he believed contained hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, but the drug house was really a ruse created by FBI agents. To prepare to storm the house, Tran had armed himself with assault rifles, silencer-equipped handguns, bulletproof vests and plastic zip ties to bind hostages, prosecutors said.
Tran, who was fired by the FBI in 2003, took the witness stand in his own defense and told jurors that he was simply trying to gather evidence that he planned to provide to federal agents.
Tran was arrested before he was able to carry out his planned raid, authorities said.
Tran — who had investigated organized crime for the FBI — was fired after he allegedly admitted to FBI officials that he tried to bribe a Vietnamese official while traveling there. He had spent most of his FBI career in Chicago.
Prosecutors filed papers in the federal court in Santa Ana, Calif., saying he is a suspect in the 2002 murders of a married couple from Chicago. Authorities say Timme and Vickie Le were shot to death in their BMW in West Rogers Park while their 3-month-old child sat in the back unharmed. The Sun-Times first reported last month that Tran was a suspect in the killings.
Tran is not charged with the murders, but Chicago Police investigators have said they plan to question Tran about the killings and want to review secret FBI recordings of Tran in the California case. A confidential informant for the FBI had secretly recorded Tran as he spoke about past murders and about other people he wanted to kill, prosecutors said.
Tran said he wanted to kill people across the country who owed him hundreds of thousands of dollars in sports gambling debts, according to a government transcript of the tapes.
“I want blood,” Tran said, according to a government transcript. “I have to make sure it has to be done right because all my hits, they are clean.”
In another recording, Tran allegedly talked about shooting people “in the eye, f - - - - - - - blow out of the, the back of the brain.”
On his MySpace social networking site, Tran inserted a chilling quote in the “About Me” section: “Man knows no pain till he’s taken a man’s life.”
The former FBI agent has faced criminal charges twice before: one for allegedly impersonating a police officer, another time on gun-related charges. But he beat both cases. Before his arrest, Tran was living in the New Orleans area.
The LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA are all trying to prove that they are the best at apprehending criminals. The President decides to give them a test. He releases a rabbit into a forest and each of them has to catch it.
The CIA goes in. They place animal informants throughout the forest. They question all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigations they conclude that rabbits do not exist.
The FBI goes in. After two weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the rabbit and they make no apologies. The rabbit had it coming.
The LAPD goes in. They come out two hours later with a badly beaten bear. The bear is yelling,"Okay, okay, I'm a rabbit, I'm a rabbit!"
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