Thursday, March 30, 2006

How can they say there's no racism?

Well, this certainly doesn't help how our "War on Terror" is perceived worldwide. How can we be convincing when claiming that racism doesn't enter into the equation when we get crap like this in the news?

Terrorism prosecutor is charged with lying


March 30, 2006

Richard Convertino, whose 14-year career as a star federal prosecutor earned him commendations for winning high-profile cases, now faces federal prosecution himself, accused Wednesday of lying to a jury to win terrorism convictions in the first trial to result from the federal 9/11 probe.

A federal grand jury indicted Convertino, 45, and State Department security officer Harry Raymond Smith III, 49, who had been assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, charging them with misleading a jury in the 2003 terrorism trial in Detroit.

Convertino, who resigned last May to enter private practice, flatly denied the accusations, reiterating his claims that he is being targeted for criticizing the Justice Department about its commitment to the war on terrorism. He is suing his former superiors.

"This indictment is purely vindictive. ... If they believe they can scare me off, they've picked the wrong guy to be their scapegoat," he said.

Smith's lawyer, Matthew Leitman of Troy, also denied the charges and noted his client's service to his country.

Both men are accused of lying about the existence of photographs that could have damaged the prosecution's case in the terror trial, which resulted in two convictions that were later set aside at the request of Convertino's bosses.

Had the photos been presented at trial, they could have undercut claims that a sketch found in the terror defendants' apartment was intended to be used for an attack on a Jordanian military hospital.

The indictment also says Convertino lied to a judge about a drug defendant's cooperation in this and other terrorism investigations so that Convertino could get a substantial reduction in the man's sentence.

Convertino and Smith are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and make false declarations, obstruction of justice and making a materially false declaration before a court.

If convicted, Convertino -- who prosecuted Detroit mob cases and NBA star Chris Webber for lying to a grand jury about money he received as a college player -- could face 30 years in prison and a $1-million fine. Smith could face 20 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. No arraignments were set.

Photos in question

The case revolves around the convictions in June 2003 of two North African immigrants, Karim Koubriti, 27, and Abdel-Ilah Elmardoudi, 40, for conspiring to provide support to terrorists.

A year later, the charges were dismissed at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office, which said Convertino withheld key evidence and allowed witnesses, including Smith, to mislead the jury.

During the terrorism trial, the prosecution maintained that a sketch found in Koubriti's flat was a terrorist targeting diagram of a military hospital in Amman, Jordan. In support of that theory, Smith testified that the sketch was consistent with what he, Convertino and FBI case agent Michael Thomas found when they toured the site. Thomas was given immunity to testify before the grand jury.

When defense lawyers asked Smith whether he had taken any photos of the site, Smith said no. Wednesday's indictment, however, said Smith took photos of the site in March 2002, but they didn't turn out, so he asked a colleague to reshoot them. The indictment said the photos were turned over to Convertino, who failed to correct Smith's testimony or disclose the photos.

Although witnesses at the trial said a dead tree was depicted in the sketch, the photos showed no such landmark, records show. That could have raised doubts that the sketch was of the hospital.

Convertino also is accused of misleading U.S. District Judge Julian Cook in July 2003 about the extent of cooperation that drug suspect Marwan Farhat provided to the government. The indictment didn't name Cook and Farhat.

Farhat, who pleaded guilty to drug charges, was in line for a 9- to 11 1/4 -year sentence. Convertino persuaded a reluctant Cook to sentence Farhat to eight months, which was covered by the time he had served in jail, and seal the records.

This week, a defense lawyer charged in court papers that Convertino engineered other huge sentencing reductions on behalf of drug dealers who assisted the government, then had the proceedings sealed to hide what he had done. He has denied those accusations.

Deputy federal defender Richard Helfrick, who represents Koubriti, said his client -- who was later indicted in alleged insurance fraud -- was pleased to learn of the indictment and plans to be there when Convertino is arraigned. Koubriti is out on bond pending the fraud trial.

Meanwhile, Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the indictment is proof the system sometimes catches its mistakes.

"I don't think anything can make up for the injury that was caused to the innocent men who were caught in the middle of this prosecution," he said.

Contact DAVID ASHENFELTER at 313-223-4490.

Copyright © 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

On Friday, Congressional Quarterly got funny

This was in Friday's mid-day update from Congressional Quarterly. I am used to them being blunt but not sarcastic. I confess, I put in a good bit of time snorting over this.

Let's see * maybe the motto at the Department of Homeland Security should be: "Do as I say, not as I do." CQ Homeland Security reports that the federal agency charged with guarding the nation's cyber infrastructure has again received a failing grade for monitoring its own computer systems. DHS received an "F" on the annual Federal Computer Security Report Card released yesterday by the House Government Reform Committee * the third consecutive year it has flunked. The report card is produced in conjunction with the Government Accountability Office and based on reports submitted by agencies on their compliance with various information security requirements in the Federal Information Security Management Act. DHS needn't feel too embarrassed, however. The government-wide grade was a "D+", as it was last year.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I have no idea

why the subscribe icon turned out so weird looking. So if that doesn't work and you really want to join the fun, email me privately at peasantwitch AT hotmail DOT com.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A more reliable source

According to a clip I heard on "The Al Franken Show," Bill O'Liely is claiming that Air America Radio is about to lose its affiliation with its New York flagship station, WLIB. I haven't been able to find the original source of the story but I did fine this, at Billboard's website. (I'm including full text because there was no other convenient way to do this.)

Air America On Defense For Second Time In Two Weeks
March 07, 2006
By Chuck Taylor

Air America found itself on the defense for the second time this week following reports in both the New York Post and New York Daily News today (March 7) implying that the liberal talk network was about to lose its New York flagship station, WLIB-AM.

The Post, in particular, seemed to offer a sensationalist slant to its reporting of the alleged loss of WLIB. Reporter John Mainelli wrote, “Air America is close to losing its New York flagship station, knocking Al Franken and his liberal colleagues off the air on the second anniversary. Losing its New York outlet would be a serious blow to the fledgling liberal radio network. Air America's options for a new home are not promising. All of the city's other strong-signal stations are spoken for, leaving only weak-signal ‘fringe’ stations that do not cover the entire city and suburbs.”

Danny Goldberg, CEO of Air America Radio, responded late Tuesday morning to “recent reports via the conservative media” in a staff memo in which he said, “Air America’s ratings in New York went up substantially in the fall 2005 book. Air America’s New York audience is large, growing and valuable. In every conceivable scenario, Air America will continue to be on in New York City.”

He went on to stress that Air America Radio is on track to be stronger still in the coming year and years: “Our audience is bigger, the total number of affiliates carrying our programming is greater, and the amount of revenue we are generating is increasing.

“It is vital, when analyzing chatter about Air America to consider the source,” Goldberg continued. “In almost all cases, the people who say bad things about our company’s business are conservative ideologues who have a particular interest in damaging Air America, for one reason and one reason only: the political opinions expressed by our on air talent. Bill O’Reilly alone has mentioned Air America on 37 separate occasions since our programming went on the air. Al Franken has offered to debate O’Reilly in any number of forums including on “The O’Reilly Factor” and O’Reilly has declined.”

Monday, March 06, 2006

This is so darned cute!

I may have to make some penguin sweaters. I can't find any pictures but it sounds adorable. I hope someone is still taking them for sale (I realize they aren't needed for the penguins anymore.) And I need an Opus doll to dress in one.

On a more serious note, this was posted in a friend's Live Journal. Read it and marvel at the time frame in which it was written ( August, 1995.) Summary/first paragraph:

"THIS MAY BE YOUR FIRST NOTICE OF THE COMING AMERICAN RELIGIOUS CIVIL WAR (ARCW). If so, you should date and preserve this warning. Then your distant descendants (maybe the "Daughters of the ARCW") can have something to be smug about--in the unlikely event that they, and this notice, survive the fires, and anybody can still read

After reading about the attempt by Missouri legislators trying to make Christianity the official state religion (Constitution be damned, apparently...) I'm getting more and more worried about where this country is going.