Two senior Democrats have seen their leadership ambitions deep-sixed because of their murky ethics histories. Here's a third Democrat heading for a powerful post whom folks may want to keep an eye on.
Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) is under investigation by the FBI. And he's set to assume a top post which would put him in control of the FBI's budget. Neat trick, eh?
The FBI's probing Mollohan for possible violations of the law arising from his sprawling network of favors and money which connects him to good friends via questionable charities, alarmingly successful real estate ventures, and hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarked funds.
The investigation appears to be active and ongoing. We're told that the Feds continue to gather information on the guy. Yet the Democrats look poised to make Mollohan the chairman of the panel which controls the purse strings for the entire Justice Department -- including the FBI.
With the House under GOP control, a Republican (FBI champion Rep. Frank Wolf) chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agencies, and Mollohan is the ranking Democrat. But if custom is any guide, in January when the House becomes Democrat-controlled the two men are likely to switch seats.
Some folks find that problematic.
"Mollohan should definitely be recusing himself from all appropriations decisions regarding the Justice Department, including the FBI," said Melanie Sloan, director of the left-leaning D.C. watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). For Mollohan, there is the danger of even appearing to manipulate the Justice Department's budget in response to its probe. For the FBI, it creates possible charges of soft-pedaling their investigation in exchange for favorable funding, Sloan said.
By the same token, she added, GOP Reps. Jerry Lewis (CA) and John Doolittle (CA), who are also appropriators under federal scrutiny, should recuse themselves from overseeing the same matters. Her group named Mollohan, Lewis and Doolittle as among the most corrupt lawmakers of 2006.
Mollohan's chairmanship of the panel "just represents a situation that shouldn't happen," said Ken Boehm of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center, whose own investigation into the long-serving lawmaker brought many of his questionable practices to light. "Somebody shouldn't have leverage over the institution that's investigating him."
The position isn't a lock. Mollohan's seniority puts him in line for just such a position, but if a more senior Democrat in line for another plum spot leaves the committee, Mollohan could opt to take the chair that lawmaker would have held. Even if Mollohan does try to take Wolf's old chair, the committee's Democrats -- who vote on each subcommittee chairmanship -- could deny him the spot, according to Democratic caucus rules. And even if they approve him, the entire House Democratic caucus, which must also vote to approve Appropriations subcommittee chairmen, could vote against him.
Mollohan could be bumped from the Appropriations Committee altogether by the Steering and Policy Committee. That move also requires the approval of the whole Democratic caucus.
After news of the FBI probe broke in April, Mollohan gave up his seat on the House Ethics Committee. But his position and activities on the Appropriations committee did not change.
Mollohan's office did not immediately return my call.
Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that incoming Appropriations chairman Rep. David Obey (D-WI) would have the authority to bar Mollohan from the post overseeing the FBI's budget. Although Obey's office did not return our call for comment prior to publication, Obey himself gave me a ring after the post was up. "You ought to read the committee and the caucus rules," he told me. "I have nothing whatsoever to do with whoever becomes chair of any subcommittee." True enough, Mr. Chairman-to-be.
Dec. 7, 2006, 2:43AM FBI investigating media leaks in corruption cases
By LARA JAKES JORDAN Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The FBI has begun several internal investigations, including at least one that could result in criminal charges, over leaks to the media about public corruption probes shortly before last month's elections.
At least one of the alleged leaks involves the federal inquiry of Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa. He lost his House seat weeks after the FBI raided the homes and offices of his daughter and her business partner.
"There are a series of investigations we've undertaken, some by our inspection side, and some, at least one we're looking at as a criminal investigation," FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
"Although I usually say I can neither confirm nor deny an investigation, I think it's fair to say in this particular case we are pursuing it, and by that I mean (the leak involving) Congressman Weldon," Mueller said.
Mueller described himself as "exceptionally disappointed, and that is being charitable, in terms of my response upon hearing about the leak."
On Oct. 13, McClatchy Newspapers reported that the FBI was looking into whether Weldon illegally steered $1 million in contracts to his daughter's lobbying firm. Agents followed up with the raid three days later, in part out of fear that evidence would be destroyed after the investigation was exposed.
Officials also confirmed federal investigations of several other House lawmakers that month, including former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., and retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. All three men have maintained their innocence.
Senators scolded Mueller about the leaks. The committee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the disclosures were "just disastrous" for suspects who have not been charged, much less proven guilty.
Similarly, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, lectured Mueller about refusing to brief lawmakers about the FBI's continuing investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks — even though many sensitive details were reported in several newspapers.
"This looks like an example of the FBI's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing," Grassley said. "You're telling me that you won't answer questions about the anthrax investigation, while someone else is telling the public that you're keeping us fully informed."
Leak investigations at the FBI, particularly those that could bring criminal penalties, are rare, former agents and experts said. They are hard to prove, particularly if some of the information has already been reported in the media or revealed in court documents.
Disclosing information a grand jury is considering is a serious crime, and such leaks often aim "to sway public opinion in favor of the government," said Martin Pinales, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
"They also have the possibility of swaying the jury pool down the road," Pinales said. "So, in that context, they're a problem."
On the other hand, leaks may sometimes be the price of having an open government in a democracy, said Ronald Collins, a scholar at the First Amendment Center.
"Legally, those who leak do so at their own peril," Collins said. "Does the public's right to know, does knowledge of our government depend on leaks — including illegal leaks? Unquestionably."
FBI agents can be forced to take lie-detector tests or otherwise cooperate with investigations to avoid losing their security clearances, and in turn, their pay. Information about ongoing criminal cases generally is shared with prosecutors and other law enforcement authorities — widening the scope of suspects in leak cases.
Fred Bragg of the FBI Agents Association said his group "would invite a strong look at any leak matter — and we look forward to those results."
“Democracies die behind closed doors” – Judge Damon J. Keith
For 15 years (1956-1971) the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ran a broad and highly coordinated domestic intelligence / counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO (COunter INTELligence PROgrams). What was originally deemed as a justifiable effort to protect the US during the Cold War from Soviet and Communist threats and infiltration, soon devolved into a program for suppressing domestic dissent and spying on American citizens. Approximately 20,000 people were investigated by the FBI based only on their political views and beliefs. Most were never suspected of having committed any crime.
The reasoning behind the program, as detailed in a 1976 Senate report, was that the FBI had “the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order.” The fact that the “perceived threats” were usually American citizens engaging in constitutionally protected behaviour was apparently overlooked. The stated goal of COINTELPRO was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” any individual or group deemed to be subversive or a threat to the established power structure.
The FBI’s techniques were often extreme, with the agency being complicit in the murder and assassination of political dissidents, or having people sent away to prison for life. Some of the more “moderate” actions that were used were blackmail, spreading false rumors, intimidation and harassment. It has been argued that the US is unique in that it is the only Western industrialized democracy to have engaged in such a wide spread and well organized domestic surveillance program. It finally came to an end in 1971 when it was threatened with public exposure.
Or did it?
In a stunning revelation from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), it appears that COINTELPRO is alive and well. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, PCJF was able to obtain documents showing how the FBI was treating the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, from its inception, as a potential criminal and domestic terrorist threat. This despite the FBI’s own acknowledgement that the OWS organizers themselves planned on engaging in peaceful and popular protest and did not “condone the use of violence.”
The documents, while heavily redacted, give a clear picture of how the FBI was using its offices and agents across the country as early as August 2011 to engage in a massive surveillance scheme against OWS. This was almost a month before any actual protests took place or encampments were set up (the most famous being the one in New York City’s Zuccotti Park).
The FBI’s documents show a government agency at its most paranoid. It considered all planned protests, and the individuals involved, as potential threats. Most disturbing of all, there is talk (p. 61) of the government being ready to “engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary” and perhaps needing to formulate a plan “to kill the leadership [of the protest groups] via suppressed sniper rifles.”
Furthermore, the documents reveal a close and intricate partnership between the federal government on one side and banks and private businesses on the other.
On August 19, 2011, the FBI met with representatives of the New York Stock Exchange in order to discuss OWS protests that wouldn’t happen for another four weeks. In September of that year, even before OWS got into full swing, the FBI was notifying local businesses that they might be affected by protests. It is not clear if, while on Wall Street, the FBI investigated the criminal and irresponsible behavior engaged in by some of the largest banks on the planet, behavior which led directly to the financial crisis of 2008.
We are also introduced to a creature named the “Domestic Security Alliance Council” which, according to the federal government, is “a strategic partnership between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector.” A DSAC report tells us that any information shared between US intelligence agencies and their corporate partners should not be released to “the media, the general public or other personnel.”
In a curious coincidence, nine days after the PCJF’s embarrassing release of FBI documents, the New York Post ran a story about how a 27 year old woman and her “Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street” boyfriend, Aaron Greene, were arrested by officers from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) after an alleged cache of weapons and bomb making explosives were found in their Greenwich Village apartment.
And what exactly led the police to this apartment? Was it credible actionable intelligence gathered from the FBI’s massive domestic surveillance program? Did some agent acquire this information by bravely infiltrating the potential domestic terrorist group known as OWS? Hardly. The NYPD was simply executing a routine search warrant related to a credit card-theft case.
But in a story about the exact same event that appeared in the New York Times, it was reported that “police said they did not believe that Mr. Greene was active in any political movements” and that no “evidence of a planned terrorist attack” had been found . Furthermore, police hadn’t “made a connection to any known plot or any connection to any known terrorists.” No mention was made of the suspect’s alleged ties to the OWS movement, an item that had been prominently reported in the New York Post’s version of events.
Oddly, a more recent New York Post story stated that Mr. Greene was now a “Nazi-loving Harvard grad” and a reported “Adolf Hitler-wannabe.” No mention was made of his suspected ties to OWS. This author made several attempts to contact the New York Post, and the writers of the 2 articles, in an effort to find out how they knew that Mr. Greene was an OWS member and activist. Attempts were also made to try to find out if the New York Post still believed that Mr. Greene was an active OWS member, or if they now simply thought that he was just an “Adolf Hitler-wannabe.”
As of the writing of this article, no response has been received from the New York Post.
The FBI’s stated mission regarding America’s security is to “develop a comprehensive understanding of the threats and penetrate national and transnational networks that have a desire and capability to harm us.”
The American people would be far better served by their government if, instead of wasting millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours harassing peaceful protesters, it spent a fraction of that time and money investigating, and bringing to justice, the people responsible for the engineered destruction of the American economy, and by extension, American society.
You know. The real terrorists.
Tom McNamara is an Assistant Professor at the ESC Rennes School of Business, France, and a Visiting Lecturer at the French National Military Academy at Saint-Cyr, Coëtquidan, France.
“COINTELPRO: The FBI’s Covert Action Programs Against American Citizens” Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Book III, Final report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate, April 23, 1976. Accessed at:
“COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story”, by Paul Wolf with contributions from Robert Boyle, Bob Brown, Tom Burghardt, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Kathleen Cleaver, Bruce Ellison, Cynthia McKinney, Nkechi Taifa, Laura Whitehorn, Nicholas Wilson, and Howard Zinn. Presented to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa by the members of the Congressional Black Caucus attending the conference: Donna Christianson, John Conyers, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Cynthia McKinney, and Diane Watson, September 1, 2001. Accessed at:
“FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring” The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), December 22, 2012. Accessed at: http://www.justiceonline.org/commentary/fbi-files-ows.html
“Greenwich Village couple busted with cache of weapons, bombmaking explosives: sources” by Jamie Schram, Antonio Antenucci and Matt McNulty, December 31, 2012, The New York Post. Accessed at:
“Manhattan Couple Stored Bomb-Making Items, Police Say” by Wendy Ruderman, December 31, 2012, The New York Times. Accessed at:
“More About FBI Spying” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), June 25, 2010. Accessed at:
“NYC couple arrested after explosive substance find” December 31, 2012, CBS/AP. Accessed at:
“Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy” by Naomi Wolf, December 29, 2012, The Guardian. Accessed at:
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation – Mission” The Federal Bureau of Investigation. Accessed at:
“Village ‘bomber’ planned to blow up Washington Sq. Arch with high-grade explosives: cops” by Jamie Schram and Jessica Simeone, January 10, 2013, The New York Post. Accessed at:
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