Two investigators have visited the home of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, as federal prosecutors appear to be actively investigating the role that the governor’s aides played in the bridge-gate scandal.
According to court documents, Stepien was not home at the time, and his lawyer Kevin Marino has declined a request by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to interview Stepien, according to NJ.com.
Marino admitted that Stepien is under federal investigation in the probe surrounding the closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge as political payback for the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., refusing to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign.
The lawyer said Stepien was first contacted by an FBI agent in mid-January by phone seeking an interview. Stepien, who worked with Christie on both his campaigns for governor and had been his pick to lead the New Jersey Republican Party, turned down the request.
In mid-February, the court documents showed that the FBI agent and a criminal investigator from the U.S. Department of Justice visited Stepien’s home in Princeton.
The documents said, they “questioned his landlord about his conduct and his character — was he was married, a rowdy tenant, did he pay his rent on time — and left behind their calling cards, which identified them as criminal investigators and left no doubt as to the nature of their investigation.”
The U.S. attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman, confirmed last month that his office was looking into the lane closings, according to The New York Times.
Christie has cut ties with Stepien and fired his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, who sent an email calling for traffic problems on the bridge last year.
Stepien’s lawyer claimed in the court documents that because his client is being investigated by federal authorities, he should not have to comply with a subpoena demanding that Stepien hand over documents to a state legislative committee also probing the traffic jam.
Stepien has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in declining to cooperate with the panel, which asked him to turn over calendars and electronic devices that might show communications regarding the closings.
Kelly is also refusing to comply with a subpoena on Fifth Amendment grounds. Both their cases will be heard in a Trenton courtroom next week, the Times reported.
Freelance journalist Glenn Greenwald has flatly denied the allegations of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers that he’s selling U.S. surveillance secrets stolen by fugitive Edward Snowden.
The Michigan Republican claimed on Tuesday during a committee hearing that Greenwald is receiving payments from news organizations worldwide for the intelligence secrets that Snowden had illegally taken while working for the National Security Agency.
“A thief selling stolen material is a thief,” said Rogers. “For personal gain, he’s now selling his access to information.”
But Greenwald, who once worked for The Guardian in Britain, said that he’s giving hisservices to foreign news agencies as a journalist and that he’s not, as Rogers suggested, “fencing stolen material.”
He said in an interview, “I’m never selling documents. I don’t get money and give them documents, like, ‘Hey, nice doing business with you.’
“We do the reporting first I vet the stories. We come with the story already formed. We work on drafts of the story. We always edit the story. We have approval rights.”
Greenwald, who works with the help of other freelancers, said that he is careful to make sure that he has signed freelance contracts with various agencies before filing his Snowden stories to ensure that he’s seen as a journalist rather than a source.
“If I went around and reported on this without a freelance contract or a freelance fee paid, the government would say I’m acting as a source and not a distributor of the documents,” Greenwald said. “I never work with any foreign media outlet without any kind of agreement. I have to do it that way. If I don’t, they would make other accusations.”
Politico noted that in the past sources have been prosecuted for revealing secret data while the U.S government has been reluctant to go after journalists or publishers.
Rogers had attempted during the committee hearing to make a connection between journalism and criminality while being briefed by Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey.
“I I’m a newspaper reporter…and I sell stolen material, is that legal because I’m a newspaper reporter?” Rogers asked. “If I’m hawking stolen, classified material that I’m not legally in possession of for personal gain and profit, is that not a crime?”
But Comey said that if a reporter was “hawking stolen jewelry” it would be a crime, but added that reporting on classified documents was harder to quantify because “it involves a news-gathering function” and “could have First Amendment implications.”
Greenwald pointed out that Roger’s accusations, if they stood up in a court of law, could criminalize the profession of journalism, and in essence the rights of free speech.
The writer, who is also an attorney and civil rights activist, claimed that his contracts are for a “trivial amount.”
He added, “Any journalist who reports on top-secret documents is necessarily getting paid. If you’re going to characterize that as selling documents, you’re necessarily selling documents.”
Greenwald also pointed out that journalist Bart Gellman had written stories for the Washington Post as a freelancer using Snowden’s documents, but Rogers had not accused him of fencing stolen goods.
“How is that any different than what Bart Gellman does?” Greenwald asked. “He’s freelance for the Washington Post and he gets paid per story.”
The Gmail account of Diplomatic Security Service criminal investigator Richard Higbie was hacked earlier this month, confirmed his lawyer Cary Schulman. And now Higbie has asked the FBI in Dallas, where he lives, to investigate the hack attack.
Schulman said that the e-mails included Higbie’s proof of misconduct by leading department officials, his correspondence with other potential whistleblowers at the agency, and his communications with members of Congress investigating the allegations.
“They took all of his e-mails and then they deleted them all,” said Schulman, adding that he had no evidence to suggest the hacker’s identity or whether he or she was working in collusion with anyone else.
Calling the hacking “sophisticated” and saying Higbie’s targeting was “alarming,” the lawyer added, “Obviously, somebody is not happy with something he’s doing and wanted to get that information and also cause him an inability in the future to have ready access to that.”
Higbie, the second-highest-ranking agent in the Dallas office, played a vital part in helping fellow whistleblower Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator for the department’s Inspector General, lift the lid earlier this year on a series of coverups by leading officials, the Post reports.
The alleged coverups included keeping an Inspector General investigation under wraps that confirmed members of then-Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s security detail had paid for hookers and that the Belgian ambassador had solicited underage prostitutes.
The Post says that several investigations by the service, which protects dignitaries and investigates crimes at the agency, were allegedly derailed by senior officials, including one case in which Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills allegedly interfered.
Higbie has claimed in an employment lawsuit against the department that it took revenge against him for being a whistleblower.
Authorities said Loewen was believed to have been motivated, at least partly, by religious beliefs.
The man was taken into custody early Friday, officials said, as he attempted to make his way onto airport property with what he thought were active explosives. They said he had planned the attack for months.
White House press secretaryJay Carney said in response to questions Friday that Levinson was not a U.S. government employee when he went missing, but he wouldn’t comment on whether the man was on contract with the CIA.
He said he was limited in what he could say and criticized the AP report as “highly irresponsible to publish.” He said he wouldn’t say anything that could harm the government’s continued efforts to find Levinson.
“He was not a U.S. government employee when he made that trip,” said Carney, responding to questions about an Associated Press story that said Levinson was working for the Central Intelligence Agency when he disappeared.
“As there is an ongoing investigation into his disappearance, I’m not going to comment further on what he may or may not have been doing in Iran,” Carney said, calling the story “highly irresponsible.”
The FBI‘s advanced surveillance methods can even activate a computer’s webcam to spy on computer users — without switching on the device’s tell-tale green light — reports about the investigation behind a bomb threat suspect reveal.
The covert snooping in the case of a mystery man, “Mo,” also shows how investigators can download files, photographs and stored e-mails from a computer without its owner knowing, reports The Washington Post.
According to The Post, “Mo” had threatened to blow up several people-filled facilities, including airports and colleges, if authorities wouldn’t free James Holmes, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity earlier this year for killing 12 people in a Denver-area movie theater in 2012.
Mo, sending photographs of himself dressed in an Iranian military uniform, first contacted the FBI in July 2012, two days after Holmes was arrested. Authorities said Mo hid his location through programs that allowed him to use e-mail, video chat and an Internet-based phone service, but it was believed the messages were coming out of Iran.
Federal officials haven’t commented on the case, but court documents reveal the FBI’s experts installed a piece of malicious software to launch into Mo’s computer files when he signed on to his Yahoo e-mail account. The software would then work to gather information about his location and websites he’d visited, in hopes of tying him to the threats.
Despite the advanced surveillance techniques, Mo has not been captured and no bombs were found anywhere. But search techniques like those launched to search for him are under fire by critics who say that they gather a broad range of information that has nothing to do with the case at hand.
‘You can’t just go on a fishing expedition,” Georgetown University law professor Laura Donohue told The Post. “There needs to be a nexus between the crime being alleged and the material to be seized. What they are doing here, though, is collecting everything.”
The FBI has been able to activate webcams for years, and has used the technique mainly to capture terrorists or for the most serious crime investigations, said Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico. He is now on the advisory board of Subsentio, which helps telecommunications carriers comply with federal wiretap statutes.
Meanwhile, Thomas said, FBI technology is advancing as people move away from using traditional computers and become smarter about hiding their identities.
“Because of encryption and because targets are increasingly using mobile devices, law enforcement is realizing that more and more they’re going to have to be on the device — or in the cloud,” Thomas said.
“There’s the realization out there that they’re going to have to use these types of tools more and more.”
U.S. prosecutors have charged 49 current and former Russian diplomats and their family members with participating in a scheme to get health benefits intended for the poor by lying about their income.
The charges come against a backdrop of tense exchanges between Russia and the United States over law enforcement actions in both countries.
According to the charges, filed in November and unsealed on Thursday, the diplomats’ families got around $1.5 million in benefits from the Medicaid program for families with low monthly incomes – in many cases around $3,000 or less. The benefits covered costs related to pregnancies, births and infant care, the charges say.
Meanwhile, according to the charges, the family members had their housing costs paid for by the Russian government and spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on vacations, jewelry and luxury goods from stores like Swarovski and Jimmy Choo.
Each of the 49 people was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to steal government funds and make false statements relating to healthcare matters, according to the charges.
“We are puzzled by the stove-piping of information to the media about accusations against Russian diplomatic mission officials in the U.S.,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax news agency.
“One does not understand why the [U.S.] institutions involved considered it possible to make these accusations public without discussing [them] through diplomatic channels.”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a Manhattan press conference that the U.S. State Department would have had to request a waiver of immunity from Russia in order for U.S. authorities to arrest the defendants. If no waiver is granted, Bharara said the State Department can insist that the defendants leave the country.
“Diplomacy should be about extending hands, not picking pockets in the host country,” he said.
Bharara declined to say how the charges might affect U.S.-Russia relations. He said his office has not been in contact with the White House.
A spokeswoman for the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Russian mission to the United Nations was not immediately available for comment on the case.
The charges say the defendants obtained letters to prove their false incomes from officials at the Russian U.N. mission, including a former counselor and a former second secretary, as well as from former top officials at the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in New York and the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the USA.
Only two of the seven officials who allegedly signed off on the income letters are identified in the charges by name. The other five are referred to as unidentified co-conspirators.
Timur Salomatin, a former Russian diplomat at the U.N., and his wife Nailya Babaeva, said they made $3,000 a month when Salomatin’s U.N. salary was actually $5,160 per month, according to the charges.
Another couple, Andrey Kalinin and Irina Shirshova, lied about their income and monthly housing costs in order to be deemed eligible for Medicaid and also sought benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which subsidizes the cost of some types of foods and education. According to the charges, the family received more than $23,000 in Medicaid benefits over about three years.
Some families also lied about their newborns’ citizenship status, the charges say, because children born to many diplomats and their spouses do not automatically acquire U.S. citizenship the way others do.
Hundreds of Russian diplomats and their families live in a compound in the Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx. Three dozen of the defendants lived in Russian-owned housing in the Bronx, according to the complaint.
Bharara said only 11 are still in the United States; ten are diplomats with the Russian Mission to the U.N. and their spouses, and one is now stationed at the Russian embassy in Washington.
Russia has in recent years accused the United States of biased and politically motivated prosecution of its citizens, including jailed arms dealer Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking.
In response to a U.S. law enacted in December 2012 that bars Russians seen as human rights abusers from entering the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off that same month on a similar law barring Americans, including some U.S. Justice Department officials, from Russia. Bharara is among those banned from Russia.
According to Issa and Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the committee is still waiting for documents related to the FBI’s investigation into the IRS targeting of conservative groups that it began six months ago, The Washington Times reported.
In a letter to FBI Director James B. Comey Jr., Issa and Jordan they say no information has been released, and the FBI has refused to allow the assistant director overseeing the investigation to brief the committee in person after saying it would.
Issa and Jordan allege political meddling, since the briefing was turned down after FBI officials met with the Justice Department.
“The department’s tactics have impeded a congressional investigation and interfered with the committee’s access to documents and information,” they wrote. “Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime.”
They have given the FBI until Dec. 16 to respond.
The FBI declined to comment on the letter, but said it plans to respond to the congressmen in writing.
The Justice Department said questions about its involvement in the investigation should be sent to the FBI.
It was revealed in May that the IRS was giving additional scrutiny to conservative groups seeking nonprofit status.
True the Vote is an election-integrity group from Texas that was targeted by the IRS and was finally approved in September — three years after applying for 501(c)(3) status.
The group filed a lawsuit against the IRS in May with the help of attorney Cleta Mitchell, who is representing six groups claiming they were targeted by the IRS when they applied for tax-exempt status.
Mitchell told Newsmax that she believes the campaign targeting conservative and tea party groups can be traced to President Barack Obama and top administration officials, based on evidence she has.
December 1 marks 2,460 days of captivity for Robert Levinson, the private investigator and retired FBI agent who has been held in Iran since March 9, 2007.
Prior to Levinson, journalist Terry Anderson, who has been imprisoned by Iran’s proxy militia Hezbollah for 2,454 days, and released December 4, 1991, had been the longest held Iranian hostage.
While Levinson, 65, is the longest-held hostage in the Islamic Republic, he is not the only American in captivity. Pastor Saeed Abedini has been held by Iranian authorities since July 2012 on charges related to the promotion of Christianity; Amir Mirza Hekmati, an Arizona native, was arrested while visiting family in August 2011.
The Nov. 24 deal between Iran and six world powers in Geneva, aimed at blocking Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, raised fresh hopes for the release of the three prisoners.
A tape released by the family in 2011 – it is not known when it was made – shows a gaunt Levinson pleading: “I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me. Please help me get home. Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something.”
His son, David Levinson, addressing his father’s captors by video, said: “Please tell us your demands so we can work together to bring my father home safely.”
The New York Times reported that emails sent by the captors to the family were routed via either Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Levinson went to Iran on behalf of an unknown private client to investigate cigarette smuggling. Terrorist groups have been known to use such smuggling to finance their operations.
Levinson had gone to Kish Island, a Persian Gulf resort, to meet with David Belfield, an American convert to Islam who goes by the name of Dawud Salahuddin. Belfield, who once described himself as an “angry” and “alienated” African American, is reported to have ties with Iranian intelligence.
In 1980 Salahuddin assassinated a former diplomat in the Shah’s government in Bethesda, Maryland before fleeing the U.S. for Iran.
Officially, Iranian leaders claim not to know anything about Levinson’s disappearance from Kush Island.
In an interview with CNN, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said, “We don’t know where he is, who he is. He is an American who has disappeared. We have no news of him.”
Rouhani added, “We are willing to help, and all the intelligence services in the region can come together to gather information about him to find his whereabouts.”
The magnitude of this Obama administration’s “progressive” radicalism becomes more evident with each passing day. In recent months, there has been a drastic spike in acts of both anti-Christian and anti-conservative discrimination and intimidation on military bases across the country. This mounting harassment is not being carried out at the hands of regular enlisted folk but, rather, at the hands of high-ranking officials who, in their official capacity, are targeting Christian and conservative organizations and individuals in an effort to silence them.
It has long been suspected that the Obama administration is using propaganda circulated by the roundly discredited Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, a left-wing extremist group that, in recent years, has adopted two primary goals: 1) raising truckloads of money and 2) smearing as “domestic hate groups” dozens of mainstream Christian ministries like the Family Research Council, or FRC, and the American Family Association, or AFA.
This suspicion has now been verified.
The problem on military bases has gotten so bad, in fact, that the U.S. Congress is demanding answersfrom the Pentagon. Recently, the AFA-affiliated OneNewsNow.com newsgroup reported that “Congressman Alan Nunnelee (R-Mississippi) is 1 of 38 members of Congress signing off on a letter to the Secretary of the Army – especially about an incident last month at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in which the Tupelo-based American Family Association was labeled in Army training material as a ‘hate group.’ The Army initially claimed it was an isolated incident.
“‘But as we looked into it, [we found] this is not an isolated incident,’ Nunnelee [told] OneNewsNow. ‘There are a number of cases where the Army has singled out the American Family Association and other Christian organizations as hate groups, and service men and women have been threatened with sanctions if they support these groups.”
After a tremendous public outcry – and in an embarrassing slap to the face of the SPLC – the Pentagon quickly backpedaled, later apologizing about the Camp Shelby incident and publicly admitting that, despite the SPLC’s absurd claims to the contrary, the AFA is not a “hate group.”
Still, rather than distancing itself from the anti-Christian SPLC as one might expect, the Obama administration has, instead, strengthened ties to the hard-left outfit. Even after this string of military scandals.
For instance, I recently learned that on its official website, the FBI lists as one of its primary “hate crimes resources,” the Southern Poverty Law Center.
This is especially mysterious when you consider that the FBI’s own verified hate crimes statistics are completely at odds with numbers put out by the SPLC in its fundraising propaganda. Whereas the FBI indicates that there was a sharp 24.3 percent decrease in hate crimes from 1996 to 2010, with racial hate crimes dropping by 41.9 percent, the SPLC incongruously claims that since 2000, the number of “hate groups” has somehow increased by 67.3 percent.
So send your money right away!
The FBI’s empirical data doesn’t track with the SPLC’s political propaganda. Consequently, by partnering so closely with this discredited organization, the Department of Justice significantly undermines its own credibility.
Still, while the SPLC has proven utterly unreliable in its actuarial acumen – as well as intentionally dishonest – it has also proven demonstrably dangerous in its prolonged campaign of anti-Christian agitation.
You may recall that it was the Southern Poverty Law Center’s somewhat clever, yet patently dishonest and reprehensible strategy of juxtaposing, as fellow “hate groups,” mainstream Christian organizations like the FRC and the AFA alongside violent extremist groups like the Aryan Brotherhood and the Skin Heads that, on Aug. 15, 2012, led to an actual act of domestic terrorism.
On that date, “gay” activist Floyd Lee Corkins II – who later confessed in court that he was spurred-on by the SPLC’s anti-Christian materials – entered the lobby of the Washington-based Family Research Council intending to kill every Christian within.
Corkins was armed with both a gun and a backpack full of ammunition. He also had 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches that he intended to rub in the faces of his would-be victims. (FRC had recently defended the food chain’s COO Dan Cathy for pro-natural marriage statements he made.)
The only thing standing between Corkins and mass murder was FRC facilities manager and security specialist Leo Johnson. As Corkins shouted disapproval for FRC’s “politics,” he shot Johnson who, despite a severely wounded arm, managed to tackle Corkins and disarm him.
Of Johnson’s actions, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said, “The security guard here is a hero, as far as I’m concerned.”
Upon hearing of Leo’s selfless act of heroism, I was reminded of John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
But according to both the SPLC and the FBI (by virtue of its close ties to the group), Leo’s heart is, instead, full of hate. Everyone at FRC is hateful.
In fact, if you happen to be a Bible-believing Christian, you too are hateful.
You get the drill.
The Obama administration has absolutely no business partnering with this extremist organization – and it’s an outrage that it does. If this troubles you as much as it does me, please contact the FBI at (202) 324-3000 and respectfully voice your concern. Then call or email your local FBI office. (Click here to find that location.) It’s critical that freedom-loving Americans light-up the FBI’s phone lines and demand that all facets of government completely disassociate from the SPLC and disavow any further use of its anti-Christian propaganda.
The Southern Poverty Law Center must be held accountable for its inflammatory and potentially deadly anti-Christian bigotry.
Source: CHARISMA NEWS.
Matt Barber (@jmattbarber on Twitter) is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war.