A former U.S. Secret Service agent pleaded guilty to money laundering in connection with the theft of $820,000 in bitcoins in the Silk Road website probe.
Shaun Bridges, 32, a forensic analyst involved in the federal investigation which shut down the drug marketplace website, was the second agent caught stealing digital cash. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and obstruction of justice charges during a San Francisco federal court hearing Monday.
During the probe, Bridges used his access authority to move 20,000 bitcoins to an account he controlled. The majority of transactions on the Silk Road website were made using bitcoins, a payment method not involving any government-backed currency.
The website was shut down in 2013. Its operator, Ross Ulbrecht, received life imprisonment in May for operating the site, and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent Carl Force pleaded guilty in July to three charges in connection with the theft of more than $700,000 in bitcoins…
Bridges is scheduled to be sentenced in December.
I would sentence the dude, tomorrow. He’s already pleaded guilty as charged. Are we supposed to let someone from law enforcement disappear into the judicial fog and maybe be allowed a kinder, gentler sentence?
In May 2005, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick appeared at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington to rally support for CAFTA, a free trade agreement between the US, the Central American countries, and the Dominican Republic.
In his remarks, Zoellick played up the notion that, for Central America and the DR, the agreement would “strengthen democracy through economic growth and open societies based on the rule of law”, while also entailing various perks for the gringos; a T-shirt reading “Made in Honduras”, he enthused, would likely contain over 60 percent US content.
The deputy secretary and future president of the World Bank went as far as to assert that, “In many ways, CAFTA is the logical culmination of 20 years of democratic and social progress in Central America, nurtured and encouraged by the United States.”
Never mind that, 20-some years ago, the United States was nurturing things like Battalion 3-16, described by the Baltimore Sun as a “CIA-trained military unit that terrorised Honduras for much of the 1980s”…
To be sure, much of Honduras’ contemporary plight – while perhaps appearing on the surface, like Zoellick’s T-shirt, to be a domestic creation – is in fact Made in USA.
Encouraged by then-US ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte, the Battalion 3-16 death squad was responsible for the disappearance of almost 200 suspected Honduran leftists and the torture and kidnapping of many more.
The aim of right-wing terror, of course, was to prevent a Honduran crossover to the communist dark side a la neighbouring Nicaragua – against whose transgressions Honduras had the honour of acting as de facto US military base and staging ground for the Nicaraguan “contra” war.
Aside from the Honduran army and similarly reactionary forces, other Hondurans benefited from the arrangement, as well. Among them was Juan Ramon Matta Ballesteros, the country’s most famed drug lord and owner of the contra supply airline SETCO, dubbed the “CIA airline”.
It’s this sort of arrangement that makes a mockery of continuing US drug war rhetoric, which excuses the militarisation of the hemisphere and allows the US Drug Enforcement Administration to transcend borders at will, while US borders are increasingly fortified…
Maria Luisa Borjas, the former chief of internal affairs for the Honduran police force, herself confirmed to me during a conversation in 2009, that approximately 3,000 young people had been murdered by the state during the presidency of Ricardo Maduro (2002-06).
Inspired by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Maduro acted as the ringleader for Honduras’ very own zero tolerance regime, which was characterised, Borjas said, by a criminalisation of youth and a liberal application of the term “gang member” to validate extrajudicial killings…
This could have been predicted from the get-go by anyone who paid scant attention to NAFTA, the 1994 free trade accord that lowered wages in Mexico, raised unemployment, and forced two million Mexican farmers to abandon their land thanks to US export subsidies.
The post-coup era has seen soaring homicide rates, with much of the violence committed by state security forces enjoying near-total impunity…
The US, for its part, did its best to legitimise the 2009 coup while pretending not to. After hemming and hawing for months about whether or not a coup perpetrated by the military qualified as a military coup and thus necessitated punitive financial measures, the US recognised the outcome of illegitimate Honduran elections held in November 2009 by the coup-installed regime. And poof, Honduras was restored to the realm of democracy.
Democracy is a word Americans lap up like a hungry cat with a bowl of cream. The calories may not be healthy calories. Long range we may all die of coronary artery disease – or its political equivalent.
Meanwhile, the World Bank-types brag that “Made in Honduras” equals 60% of the profits coming to US Corporations. I’m not sure how that is supposed to benefit the people of Honduras.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and two other members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee want to know more about why federal narcotics agents seized $16,000 from a 22-year-old African-American man in April when the Amtrak train he was taking to Los Angeles stopped in Albuquerque.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents made the seizure after they had talked to Joseph Rivers about where he was going. He was not charged with a crime, but the money was seized because agents said they believed, based on their conversation with Rivers, that it was somehow linked to narcotics trafficking…
Lujan Grisham and fellow Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee and John Conyers Jr., the ranking minority member, asked the DEA in a letter this week for more information about the stop and to answer their concerns that it might have involved racial profiling.
“These stops appear to involve individuals who have not committed any crime,” Lujan Grisham said in a telephone interview. “Many of these people don’t have the resources to fight a forfeiture action.”
The letter cited the Journal‘s story on the so-called “cold consent” search of Rivers, who was still on the train after it stopped at the station in Downtown Albuquerque…
Rivers said he was carrying $16,000 in cash he saved and relatives gave him to fulfill his lifelong dream of making a music video when he was approached by a DEA agent who was asking passengers where they were going and why.
The agent asked to search Rivers’ bags, he complied and the agent found the cash in a bank envelope.
“I even allowed him to call my mother, a military veteran and (hospital) coordinator) to corroborate my story,” Rivers told Gutierrez Krueger. “Even with all this, the officers decided to take my money because he stated that he believed that the money was involved in some type of narcotic activity.”
Rivers was not arrested or charged with any crime. But his money was seized under civil forfeiture laws in an administrative process that can last years.
Rivers said he was the only passenger singled out for a search by DEA agents and the only African-American on his portion of the train…
DEA agents have denied they racially profile people, arguing that they use other indicators such as people buying expensive one-way tickets in cash at the last minute…
Under civil asset forfeiture laws, it is the money or property that is considered the guilty party. The person carrying the money doesn’t have to be charged with a crime.
No judge, no hearing, nothing evidentiary required other than the “feelings” of a DEA copper. About as criminal as any extortion on the street.
Keep on rocking in the Free World.
Anything else you think I should ignore – besides the NSA?
The chairman of the House Oversight Committee called…for the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration to step down amid allegations that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes while stationed overseas.
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said DEA chief Michele Leonhart has allowed problems at the agency to fester for more than a decade…
If Leonhart does not step down, President Barack Obama should fire her, Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz made the comments after a 3½-hour hearing Tuesday that focused on the sex party allegations, which date back to 2001. Leonhart has led the DEA since 2007 and was sole deputy administrator for three years before that.
An internal report said government money was used to pay prostitutes at a farewell party for a high-ranking DEA official in Colombia.
DEA agents also rented undercover apartments in Colombia and used them for parties with prostitutes, the DEA said in an internal report…
The Justice Department report recounts allegations that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes, funded by local drug cartels, in a foreign county. The report does not identify the country where the alleged sex parties occurred, but the DEA report released Tuesday identified it as Colombia.
The report came after a separate 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia involving the Secret Service drew attention to questionable behavior by law enforcement officers while stationed overseas. Those allegations prompted Congress to order a review of other agencies’ practices. DEA agents who were accused of misconduct in the wake of that scandal were recalled from Colombia and put on limited duty.
Ten DEA agents were accused of wrongdoing; seven were issued suspensions ranging from one to 10 days…
My only suggestion – in addition to endorsing the firing of the DEA Chief who did nothing – is to bring the former DEA head(s) back to Congress for questioning about the how and why of starting this criminal behavior. Then, sue them for the return of their paychecks.
Somehow – in 2001 – it became clear to agents of a number of police operating for the United States outside our borders that accepting gifts and prostitutes from drug gangs was acceptable. That’s not an easy decision even under Emperor Nero or Reichsführer Cheney, I imagine.
The Drug Enforcement Administration paid an Amtrak employee for passenger lists instead of working with Amtrak police, an inspector general’s report said.
The employee, a secretary who chose to retire after her relationship with the DEA was uncovered, reportedly received $854,460 over almost two decades. The DEA payments began in 1995.
The quarterly report done by the Amtrak inspector general said that Amtrak police would have received the same amount in forfeited assets if the DEA had instead worked with the national rail passenger agency.
The information was discovered by a congressional staffer going through the quarterly report, which was dated June 30…
The chief pimps for Washington’s War on Drugs are so worried about transparency they have relied on paid snitches on government payrolls rather than their peers in law enforcement.
One more example of the secret police mentality built-in to our government. This example has been going on for almost 20 years. And you think crap like the Patriot Act is the beginning of a police state in America? Cripes!
The US Drug Enforcement Administration is intimidating physicians in Massachusetts to get them to give up jobs at medical marijuana dispensaries, The Boston Globe reports.
The DEA allegedly went to physicians’ homes and offices and offered them a choice: either they stop helping medical marijuana dispensaries, or the DEA will take away federal licenses that are necessary to prescribe certain medications. Since doctors’ livelihoods can depend on their ability to prescribe drugs, the threats forced some of them to resign from their medical marijuana jobs…
The DEA, in a statement to Vox, confirmed the policies are part of the agency’s protocol, but it refused to comment on the specific allegations in Massachusetts.
Although marijuana is voter-approved and legal for medical purposes in Massachusetts, it remains illegal under federal laws and regulations. The DEA classifies marijuana as a schedule 1 substance, which puts the drug in a stricter classification than cocaine and meth.
The contradiction between federal and state laws speaks to why so many supporters of marijuana legalization want clearer rules on the books. Just two weeks ago, the US House of Representatives voted to protect medical marijuana patients from federal interference. A few weeks before the House vote, the DEA decided to increase how much marijuana it makes available for medical research.
At this point, the two-steps-forward-one-step-backward approach has become all too familiar for supporters of recreational and medical marijuana legalization. As public opinion shifts in favor of marijuana legalization, it’s taking the federal government — and agencies that rely on strict drug laws to stay afloat — a bit more time to catch up…
Several states have already legalized medical marijuana, although the drug remains illegal for all purposes at the federal level. Maryland in 2014 became the 21st state to legalize medical marijuana, and New York and Florida may follow soon.
Every level of our government is not only characterized by hypocrisy; but, the deliberate rejection of either modern inquiry or policies based on sound science. Marijuana is almost impossible to research – good, bad or indifferent – because of laws that were absurd in the first place.
Though citizens and individual states are miles ahead of the morality-crockpot legislators and law enforcers in Washington, DC – that only seems to supercharge bureaucrats who fear diminished budgets more than the good news that their services are no longer needed.
DEA agents – or AT&T employees?
For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.
The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.
The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.
The project comes to light at a time of vigorous public debate over the proper limits on government surveillance and on the relationship between government agencies and communications companies. It offers the most significant look to date at the use of such large-scale data for law enforcement, rather than for national security.
The scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the N.S.A.’s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act. The N.S.A. stores the data for nearly all calls in the United States, including phone numbers and time and duration of calls, for five years.
Hemisphere covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day, the slides say; technical specialists say a single call may generate more than one record. Unlike the N.S.A. data, the Hemisphere data includes information on the locations of callers.
The slides were given to The New York Times by Drew Hendricks, a peace activist in Port Hadlock, Wash. He said he had received the PowerPoint presentation, which is unclassified but marked “Law enforcement sensitive,” in response to a series of public information requests to West Coast police agencies.
The program was started in 2007, according to the slides, and has been carried out in great secrecy.
“All requestors are instructed to never refer to Hemisphere in any official document,” one slide says. A search of the Nexis database found no reference to the program in news reports or Congressional hearings.
The Obama administration acknowledged the extraordinary scale of the Hemisphere database and the unusual embedding of AT&T employees in government drug units in three states.
But they said the project, which has proved especially useful in finding criminals who discard cellphones frequently to thwart government tracking, employed routine investigative procedures used in criminal cases for decades and posed no novel privacy issues.
Crucially, they said, the phone data is stored by AT&T, and not by the government as in the N.S.A. program. It is queried for phone numbers of interest mainly using what are called “administrative subpoenas,” those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A.
The government will offer up blather about success at shutting down drug dealers. Worthy of one more ironic slow clap. Success arrived at by compromising the privacy of the citizens of a supposedly free country is crap. Government self-praise floating atop a cesspool of corrupt practices is just one more signal of imperial power clasped to the bosom of power-hungry politicians.
Relying on one of our royal corporations to store and dole out information on every citizen smacks of one more sci-fi prediction come true. Corporate networks functioning as the best ally of a potentially fascist state ain’t exactly something worth bragging about. Even though that will be the response from hacks in both parties now that Drew Hendricks has turned up one more Big Brother watchdog in our lives.
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.
“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”
Tell me again how Obama and the Dems care more about due process than the scumbags in the Tea Party/Republican Party. I just bought a new pair of rubber boots and I’m prepared to break them in walking through a farmyard full of crap.
This whole process is indefensible and unconstitutional. Yes, the lack of standards were laid down by Bush and Cheney and Democrats are perfectly willing describe what thugs they were – selling the Patriot Act as defense against terrorism and then letting it be used for everything from schoolyard gangs to tax challenges. Obama and his flunkies revamped all that to add “legalness” and now it’s supposed to be OK.
Here we are facing the same process used to legitimize illicit law practices in the name of the War on Terror – courtesy of the FISA Court and the NSA, this time.. Inexcusable, unforgivable and should be overturned by any elected federal officials with principles and a backbone.
Uh, that’s California below — not North Waziristan
The US uses drones for surveillance in some limited law-enforcement situations, the head of FBI has said, prompting additional debate about the Obama administration’s use of domestic surveillance.
Robert Mueller’s acknowledgement came in response to questions on Wednesday from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who said they wanted to know more about the federal government’s increasing use of unmanned aircraft.
“Does the FBI use drones for surveillance on US soil?” Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“Yes,” Mueller said, adding that the use was in “a very, very minimal way and very seldom”.
Mueller did not go into detail, but the FBI later released a statement that said unmanned aircraft were used only to watch stationary subjects and to avoid serious risks to law-enforcement agents…
The Federal Aviation Administration approves each use, the statement said.
Golly, what a surprise. Did they ever consider refusing?
At the hearing, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said she was concerned about the privacy implications of drone surveillance.
“The greatest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drone and the use of the drone, and the very few regulations that are on it today,” she said…
This is the same hack who said, “I think it’s an act of treason” – speaking of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing on NSA snooping.
The Justice Department had disclosed that two domestic law-enforcement agencies use unmanned aircraft systems, according to a department statement sent to the Judiciary Committee and released on Wednesday by Grassley’s office.
The two are the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives…
Mueller, who is due to retire when his term expires in September, agreed that there should be public discourse over the future of the unmanned vehicles, saying “it’s worthy of debate and perhaps legislation down the road”.
Requiring warrants fits into the same category as FAA approval. Rubber stamps don’t ask questions or consider constitutionality.
The fact remains that the same sort of Big Brother methods denied as an unthinkable violation of sacred trust have been happening all along. Flying spy missions over these United States ain’t the same as reinforcing the Border Patrol or US Customs. Though that will be a significant portion of the rationale. No doubt.
Medical marijuana advocates are hoping state governments can succeed where their efforts have failed by asking federal authorities to reclassify pot as a drug with medical use.
Shortly before Christmas, Colorado became the fourth state to ask the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a narcotic in the same league as heavyweight painkillers including oxycodone. The governors of Washington and Rhode Island filed a formal petition with the agency in November, and Vermont signed onto that request shortly afterward.
All four are among the sixteen states and the District of Columbia that have laws on the books that allow the medical use of marijuana, even though the drug remains illegal under federal law. Meanwhile, federal authorities have asserted their power by raiding dispensaries in states including California and Washington.
Supporters say the public is on their side, and the state requests show the feds are increasingly isolated on the issue. But they acknowledge it’s still an uphill battle…
Insert appropriate smartass remark about “Change” here.
In their November petition, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee argued that “the vast majority of modern research” has found marijuana useful for treating patients with glaucoma, for relieving the nausea suffered by cancer patients in chemotherapy and for relieving symptoms of degenerative nerve diseases…
Critics call medical marijuana a “Trojan horse” for legalizing the drug entirely, and federal authorities mounted a string of high-profile raids in California, Washington and Montana in 2011…
Which further convinces social conservatives that their backwardness has at least an opportunist ally in the White House.
Morgan Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project said the states’ requests to reclassify the drug “could and certainly should” give the states some breathing room, “but I really don’t think it will…I think that it’s not going to provide any real tangible benefits immediately,” he said. But it if succeeds, “It will definitely bring the federal government more in line with currently accepted science.”
In the meantime, “There’s no reason for the federal government to be wasting resources going after medical marijuana providers,” he said.