Archive for March, 2010

Bush Wiretapping Program Takes Hit in California Ruling

March 31, 2010


The Associated Press

Posted on Wed, Mar. 31, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO – In a repudiation of the Bush administration’s now-defunct Terrorist Surveillance Program, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that government investigators illegally wiretapped the phone conversations of an Islamic charity and two American lawyers without a search warrant.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker said the plaintiffs provided enough evidence to show “they were subjected to warrantless electronic surveillance.”

The judge’s 45-page ruling focused narrowly on Al-Haramain case, touching vaguely on the larger question of the program’s legality.

Nonetheless, Al-Haramain lawyer Jon Eisenberg said the ruling had larger implications.

“By virtue of finding what the Bush administration did to our clients was illegal, he found that the Terrorist Surveillance Program was unlawful,” Eisenberg said.

At issue was a 2006 lawsuit filed by the Ashland, Ore., branch of the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and two American lawyers Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor.

Belew and Ghafoor claimed their 2004 phone conversations with foundation official Soliman al-Buthi were wiretapped without warrants soon after the Treasury Department had declared the Oregon branch a supporter of terrorism. They argued that wiretaps installed without a judge’s authorization are illegal.

It was the last active case pending before a trial judge challenging the wiretapping program that ended in 2007.

“The ruling ends the case, but without the fireworks everyone expected,” George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr said. “It ended with a whimper.”

The plaintiffs were seeking $1 million each, plus attorney fees in the case. Walker ordered more legal arguments before deciding on possible damages.

The ruling came after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the lawsuit threatened to expose ongoing intelligence work and must be thrown out.

In making the argument, the Obama administration agreed with the Bush administration’s position on the case but insisted it came to the decision differently.

Holder’s effort to stop the lawsuit marked the first time the administration has tried to invoke the state secrets privilege. Under the strategy, the government can have a lawsuit dismissed if hearing the case would jeopardize national security.

Holder said Judge Walker had been given a classified description of why the case must be dismissed so the court could “conduct its own independent assessment of our claim.”

That was a departure from the Bush administration, which resisted providing specifics to judges handling such cases about what the national security concerns were.

Holder previously said the administration would respect the outcome of Walker’s review.

Eisenberg called on the Obama administration to accept Wednesday’s ruling and forgo any appeals.

“We are reviewing it,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.

President Bush authorized the surveillance program shortly after 9/11, allowing National Security Agency officials to bypass the courts and intercept electronic communications believed connected to al-Qaida.

Generally, government investigators are required to obtain search warrants signed by judges to eavesdrop on domestic phone calls, e-mail traffic and other electronic communications.

In June, Judge Walker tossed out more than three dozen lawsuits against the nation’s telecommunications companies for allegedly taking part in the program.

Congress in 2008 agreed on new surveillance rules that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that allegedly helped the U.S. spy on Americans without warrants.

Walker previously upheld the constitutionality of the new surveillance rules. His ruling is being appealed.

Anthony Coppolino, the U.S. Department of Justice lawyer who has been in charge of the Islamic Foundation case under both administrations, has never addressed the legality of the wiretap program.

Coppolino has always argued the case should be tossed out in the name of national security and said the government risked exposing ongoing intelligence work if the lawsuit were allowed to proceed.

The government argued that its “state secret privilege” trumped the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which requires investigators to seek wiretap approval from a special court that convenes behind closed doors.

Coppolino refused to even discuss whether such a secret warrant existed, arguing that to confirm or deny would threaten national security.

On Wednesday, the judge said the government was wrong and ruled that it should be assumed investigators lacked a warrant.

“FISA takes precedence over the state secrets privilege in this case,” Walker wrote.

The Bush administration invoked the secrets privilege numerous times in lawsuits over various post-9/11 programs.

In another wiretap case targeting the Bush tactics, the Center for Constitutional Rights asked the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to order government officials to disclose if officials eavesdropped without warrants on electronic conversations between 23 attorneys and their clients held at Guantanamo.

Lower courts had tossed out that request.


4 Women Arrested for Robberies

March 31, 2010

America’s Law Enforcement Officers Struggle With Budget Cuts While Obama Pledges Additional $1.15 Billion to Haiti

March 31, 2010

Associated Press Writer

Posted:  Mar 31, 2010 8:24 AM EDT Updated: Mar 31, 2010 9:24 AM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) – A senior U.S. official says the Obama administration will pledge $1.15 billion over the next two years to help with Haiti’s post-earthquake reconstruction.

The official says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will announce the pledge on Wednesday at a U.N. donors conference that is expected to raise $3.8 billion in initial assistance to rebuild schools, hospitals, courthouses and neighborhoods destroyed in the Jan. 12 quake.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement at the conference that Clinton is co-chairing with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (Bahn kee-MUHN’). Representatives of more that 130 countries are expected to attend the meeting.

Police Searching for Shooting Suspect

March 31, 2010

by NewsChannel 36 Staff

Posted on March 31, 2010 at 6:20 AM

Updated today at 6:57 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Police say they’re actively searching for a man who shot into an occupied home in north Charlotte late Tuesday night.

The suspect has been identified as 20-year-old Daniel Marquis Moore.

Police tell that NewsChannel that around 10:20 a.m. Moore fired a gun in a home on Dundeen Street off of Beatties Ford Road, and that no one inside the home was hurt.

A witness told responding officers that after firing the shots, Moore ran into his own home, which is also on Dundeen Street, police say. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department SWAT Unit then responded and monitored Moore’s home for about seven hours. SWAT members sent a robot with a video camera inside and eventually went in themselves, but they were unable to locate Moore.

If you know where Moore is, you’re asked to call the Violent Criminal Apprehension Team Hotline at 704-336-VCAT.

Trooper Disputes Story That Woman Was ‘Sucked Under’ car

March 30, 2010

A Fayette County man’s version of how his wife ended up underneath his car while he was driving it on Route 40 last summer defies the laws of physics, according to a state trooper who testified yesterday during a pretrial hearing in the homicide case.

 Ronald Lee Higinbotham’s attorney disputed the trooper’s finding, and yesterday asked a judge to bar his client’s statements at trial because the Brownsville man is borderline mentally retarded.

 Higinbotham, 45, is charged with criminal homicide in the June 20 death of his wife, Carmen Higinbotham, 30. Police allege Higinbotham ran her over with his lime-green 2000 Hyundai Tiburon just before midnight in Menallen.

 Higinbotham told troopers his wife was “sucked under” the vehicle after she jumped from the passenger side, Trooper John Weaver testified during a hearing yesterday to determine whether evidence, statements and scientific tests will be admissible at trial. But that scenario is impossible, Weaver said, according to both the laws of physics and tests he conducted using Higinbotham’s car and a crash-test dummy.

 For Carmen to have been sucked under the car after she purportedly jumped away from it, some “magical” force outside the moving vehicle would have been required to stop her momentum and push her back toward the vehicle, Weaver testified.

 In addition, Weaver said, tests he conducted by tossing a 95-pound, anatomically correct dummy from Higinbotham’s car as it traveled at 55 mph on a runway at Connellsville Airport disproved Higinbotham’s story.

 “That is not possible, according to the laws of physics,” Weaver said. He said the dummy was not pulled under the vehicle in any of the seven tests he conducted at the airport.

 Higinbotham’s attorney, Sam Davis of Uniontown, questioned the validity of the tests, pointing out that Carmen weighed 210 pounds while the dummy was only 95 pounds. In addition, he noted that police have no written documentation to show that the vehicle was going 55 mph when Carmen exited it.

 “You have to think, how can a 95-pound dummy replicate a 210-pound woman?” Davis said. “If that leg doesn’t fit, the whole table has to fall.”

 Weaver testified that regardless of the dummy’s weight or the speed of the car during the tests, the outcome would have been the same because of the laws of physics. In addition, he said blood spatter that was found on the front of the car and its undercarriage point toward a different scenario than was given by Higinbotham.

 “The victim was struck with the front of the vehicle, and completely run over, with her body rolling under the vehicle as it traveled over her,” Weaver testified.

 A defense expert testified yesterday that because Higinbotham has an IQ of only 62, he could not have understood the implications of waiving his Miranda rights when he spoke to troopers on June 21 without an attorney present.

 Dr. Antoinette Petrazzi-Woods said Higinbotham was in the special education program when he attended classes in the California Area School District. The district tested Higinbotham’s IQ at between 72 and 80 between 1975 and 1980, Petrazzi-Woods said.

 She said Higinbotham scored a 62 on an IQ test she administered to him on Sept. 24 in the county jail. The score puts Higinbotham at borderline mental retardation, Petrazzi-Woods said, and as such, he lacks abstract reasoning.

 Although Higinbotham signed a rights waiver when he spoke to troopers, Petrazzi-Woods said, more extensive questioning would have been necessary to determine whether he fully understood the rights he was giving up.

 Yesterday, Davis argued that Higinbotham’s low IQ, combined with his blood-alcohol level of 0.14 percent in the hours after Carmen’s death, must be weighed when determining whether his statements are admissible.

 In addition, Davis questioned whether police should have obtained a search warrant before they had Higinbotham’s vehicle towed from his residence.

 Trooper Andre Stenson testified he had the vehicle towed after Higinbotham advised him he believed he had run over Carmen. Stenson said he didn’t want to leave the car unsecured while he transported Higinbotham to Uniontown Hospital for a blood-alcohol test.

 The vehicle was not examined until after search warrants were obtained, said Trooper John F. Marshall.

 Judge John F. Wagner Jr. delayed ruling on the motion to give Davis and District Attorney Jack Heneks time to file legal briefs in support of their positions.

Feds Release Indictment Against Michigan Militia

March 30, 2010

Kurt Nimmo
March 29, 2010

In the wake of the FBI and Homeland Security raid on the Hutaree militia in Michigan over the weekend, the government has released its indictment.

“Nine members of a Lenawee County-based militia group were planning to ‘levy war’ against the United States and ‘oppose by force’ the nation’s government, according to an indictment released this morning in U.S. District Court in Detroit,” reports the Detroit News. “The five-count indictment was unsealed this morning and alleges that between August 2008 and the present, the defendants were attempting to use bombs and other weapons to oppose the U.S. government.”

In addition to weapons charges and use of a “weapon of mass destruction” (sic), the government plans to charge the defendants with sedition.

Sedition is regarded as falling one step short of the more serious crime of treason.

The seditious conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. The charge of using a “weapon of mass destruction” may result in a life sentence for the defendants.

The accused include: David Brian Stone, 45; his wife, Tina Stone, 44; his son, Joshua Matthew Stone, 21, all three of Clayton; and his other son, David Brian Stone Jr., 19, of Adrian. Also, Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield; Michael Meeks, 40 of Manchester; Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.; Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio; and Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio.

“This is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society,” Andrew Arena, FBI special agent in charge, told the newspaper. “The FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States.”

The Department of Homeland Security has worked closely with the Southern Poverty Law Center, long a source of conspiracy theories about militias.

In 2004, the FBI revealed the SPLC was involved with government operative and convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the Aryan Republican Army at Elohim City. McVeigh’s contact at Elohim City was Andreas Carl Strassmeir, a former German intelligence officer. Peter Langan, the son of a retired U.S. Marine intelligence officer and said to be the leader of the Aryan Republican Army, was a government informant.

Radio talk show host and racist firebrand Hal Turner recently admitted in federal court that he worked for the FBI as a “National Security Intelligence” asset. “Turner also claims the FBI coached him to make racist, anti-Semitic and other threatening statements on his radio show, but the newspaper also found many federal officials were concerned that his audience might follow up on his violence rhetoric,” the Associated Press reported in November, 2009.

Turner’s code name was “Valhalla” and “he received thousands of dollars from the FBI to report on such groups as the Aryan Nations and the white supremacist National Alliance.

The FBI, under its long-running COINTELPRO, subsidized, armed, directed and protected the Klu Klux Klan and other racist groups.

“Because the Hutaree had planned a covert reconnaissance operation for April, which had the potential of placing an unsuspecting member of the public at risk, the safety of the public and of the law enforcement community demanded intervention at this time,” said Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Hutaree means “Christian soldier,” according to the group, and members say they are preparing for battle with the Anti-Christ.

The indictment accuses the Christian group of planning to kill a member of law enforcement, possibly after a traffic stop, to “prompt a response by law enforcement.” The alleged goal of this murder, according to the government, would be to “intimidate and demoralize law enforcement, diminishing their ranks and rendering them ineffective.”

The indictment says the group then intended to use the incident to spark a “war” against law enforcement, using bombs, ambushes and prepared fighting positions.

It remains to be seen if the FBI had informers and agents provocateurs in the Hutaree militia.

Militia Raids Part Of Government Effort to Provoke Violence, Purge Dissent

March 30, 2010

Steve Watson & Paul Watson
Monday, March 29th, 2010

Militia Raids Part Of Government Effort to Provoke Violence, Purge Dissent 290310raidRelated: Feds Release Indictment Against Michigan Militia

News of a bust on nine members of a militia group in Detroit who were planning to “levy war” against the United States and “oppose by force” the nation’s government, should be treated with extreme suspicion, given that every major terror bust in the U.S. in recent years has been contrived.

According to an indictment (PDF) unsealed this morning in U.S. District Court in Detroit, eight men and one woman were training in modern combat techniques for a prophesized battle with the anti-Christ.

The indictment described the nine as gearing up to use bombs and other weapons to kill local, state, and federal law enforcement officials in an effort to act as a “catalyst for a more wide-spread uprising against the government.”

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force carried out a series of raids on group members in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio over the weekend.

Known as the “Hutaree” militia, each of the nine faces three to five charges, including sedition, attempts to use weapons of mass destruction, teaching/demonstrating use of explosive materials and two counts of carrying weapons in relation to a crime of violence.

Seven of the defendants appeared in court this morning and were ordered held without bond until Wednesday.

“This is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society,” FBI special agent Andrew Arena told The Detroit News.

“The FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States.” Arena added.

Comments made by a well known former militia leader indicate that the Hutaree were regarded by other militia outfits as radical and reckless “low-hanging fruits”.

Mike Vanderboegh, who has close connections with the militia movement in Michigan and all over the country, was critical of the Hutaree, saying that they “have indicated in the past that, much like John Brown, they WANTED to start a civil war, which is why no responsible militia group in Michigan was willing to ally with them.”

Vanderboegh described the group as “a perfect target” for the feds, adding that the raids could have provoked a nationwide uprising if they had turned violent.

As we highlighted earlier this month, following the highly suspicious Pentagon shooting, recent history proves that domestic terror, far from being a militia plot or an “extremist fringe” threat, is a government specialty.

Just a brief reprisal of the last handful of major terror cases in the United States instantly reminds us that in every single instance the plot was artificially engineered by the federal government and then later seized upon, with the enthusiastic support of the corporate media, as justification for more funding, more power, and more authority to denounce critics of the war on terror and dissent against the state in general.

From ensuring known extremist Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, now known as the underwear bomber, was able to board Flight 253 in Amsterdam last December, to allowing Fort Hood shooter Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to remain on a U.S. Army base, and even to participate in Homeland Security exercises, the actions of Federal authorities have provoked often tragic newsmaking incidents.

Dozens of terror busts and stings since 9/11 have been orchestrated by handlers aiding the accused terrorists at every turn. We have never come across a major case where the terrorists involved in a plot were not being prodded by the FBI and federal informants, or where clear prior knowledge and forewarning was not evident.

Lawyers in a case relating to the much vaunted 2007 terror plot to attack Fort Dix and kill “as many soldiers as possible” concluded that FBI informants were the key figures behind the operation and that the accused, six foreign-born Muslims, were merely bungling patsies.

Similarly, the “Toronto 18″ terrorists turned out to be “a bunch of incompetent guys who were primarily misled by a delusional megalomaniac”. The explosive fertilizer material the terrorist cell apparently planned to use was in fact purchased by an informant working for the RCMP who had radicalized the group.

In the media-lauded Miami terror case in 2007, the supposed ringleader Narseal “Prince Marina” Batiste “had heard of Al-Qaeda, but wasn’t sure what it stood for. The FBI instigators made Batiste swear loyalty to al-Qaida; then had him call on his local buddies to form an ‘Islamic army’ in Miami. None had military training. Some could barely read. But Batiste assured the group in the midst of its collective marijuana buzz of greatness ahead,” wrote Saul Landau.

These were the men who comedian John Stewart referred to as “seven dipshits in a warehouse” after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had ludicrously told the press that the group of semi-retarded gang-bangers had planned to “wage a ground war against America”.

One of the more recent examples was the case of the so-called Muslim terrorists busted in New York, who supposedly wanted to blow up synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military airplanes flying out of the New York Air National Guard base. The men were provided with fake explosives and inactive missiles by an FBI informant, reported the Christian Science Monitor. Two of the ringleaders of the “deadly” plot which was endlessly hyped by the media turned out to be semi-retarded potheads, exactly as we had predicted would be the case due to the innumerable past cases with the exact same modus operandi.

Then we have the most deadly and contrived “christian-patriot” terror plot – the OKC bombing of 1995. While the SPLC, the ADL and similar organizations are happy to play the Timothy McVeigh card over and over again, to back up the notion that hate-filled right wing extremists are taking over the country, they are less enthusiastic to mention the fact that McVeigh planned his deadly assault on the Alfred P. Murrah building under the intimate direction of a high-level FBI official. This according to McVeigh’s co-conspirator Terry Nichols, a claim voluminously backed up by a plethora of evidence that has been presented in court on several occasions.

Time and time again it is revealed that the only prominent people who call for violence in the patriot movement turn out to be working for the feds.

Radio talk show host and racist firebrand Hal Turner recently admitted in federal court that he worked for the FBI as a “National Security Intelligence” asset. “Turner also claims the FBI coached him to make racist, anti-Semitic and other threatening statements on his radio show, but the newspaper also found many federal officials were concerned that his audience might follow up on his violence rhetoric,” the Associated Press reported in November, 2009.

Turner’s code name was “Valhalla” and “he received thousands of dollars from the FBI to report on such groups as the Aryan Nations and the white supremacist National Alliance.

The FBI, under its long-running COINTELPRO, subsidized, armed, directed and protected the Klu Klux Klan and other racist groups.

In light of all these cases, and the ongoing effort to re-direct the focus of the war on terror away from foreign muslim terrorists to “home grown” American “extremists”, the question must be explored – were the FBI actively involved in radicalizing the “Hutaree” militia? Were any of the militia members FBI informants?

Count the hours until the links emerge.

Police: Drive-By Shooting Involved Known Gang Member

March 30, 2010

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Police said the man involved in a Saturday drive-by shooting is a known gang member who has been arrested several times in the last two years.

 A woman was shot early on Saturday at the intersection of WT Harris Boulevard and Interstate 85.

 Police said the intended target was a known gang member named Edison Argueta. They said Argueta was about to turn onto I-85 South when a car pulled up next to him and 18-year-old Jesus Rodriguez fired a shot. The bullet hit a woman riding in the front seat.

 “[Rodriguez] has been a problem on the east side of Charlotte for about three or four years now,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Sgt. Scott Sherwood said.

 A search warrant said Rodriguez goes by the nickname Blue and that he’s been a documented member of the Sureno gang since 2005.

 Since then, he’s been involved in 14 gang incidents, police said.

 Jail records show he’s been arrested at least five times in the last two years. But police said charges were dismissed each time, probably because victims wouldn’t testify.

 But this time, Sherwood said he hopes Rodriguez will stay behind bars.

 “I think we’ll be able to convict him on a felony in this case,” he said.

Mom Locks Herself, Kids in Walmart Restroom With Stolen Merchandise

March 30, 2010

CMPD Sergeants Sue City for Overtime Pay

March 30, 2010

by GLENN COUNTS / NewsChannel 36
E-mail Glenn:

Posted on March 29, 2010 at 7:00 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thirty-two current and former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police sergeants are suing the city for overtime pay.

The sergeants have been negotiating with the city for more than a year now.

“Finally realized we weren’t getting anywhere in talking with the city. We felt like we didn’t have a choice,” said attorney Lou Lessene, who is representing the sergeants.

The city contends that the sergeants are supervisors and are paid a salary, which is not subject to overtime pay. But the Department of Labor says the sergeants are also eligible for hourly pay, including overtime.

Lessene filed the lawsuit Monday “to recover overtime pay and compensatory time off owed, but never paid to plaintiffs as employees of the city of Charlotte.”

Now, the city must decide whether to settle or go to court.

“The Department of Labor investigated and found that the city was violating the law. The city agreed to pay some amounts and this lawsuit is about what’s left,” Lessene said.

The city agreed to pay $500,000, but Lessene says he doesn’t know how big the bill will be for the sergeants who are named in the lawsuit.

“The city has all the documents and all the paperwork, so we can’t know that until we see what they got,” Lessene said.

City attorney DeWitt F. McCarley released this statement late Monday: “We have been negotiating with the attorney for the officers for over a year, and thought we were close to reaching a resolution. We’re disappointed the officers chose to file suit instead of continuing discussions. I hope negotiations can be re-opened soon.”