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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Informer’s Role in Bombing Plot

Informer’s Role in Bombing Plot
Published: May 22, 2009

Everyone called the stranger with all the money “Maqsood.” He would sit in his Mercedes, waiting in the parking lot of the mosque in Newburgh, N.Y., until the Friday prayer was over. Then, according to members of the mosque, the Masjid al-Ikhlas, he approached the young men.
He asked Shakir Rashada, 34, if he wanted to come over for lunch. He offered Shafeeq Abdulwali, 39, a job, perhaps at his construction company. Jamil Muhammed, 38, said he was offered cellphones and computers.
The man, a Pakistani, occasionally approached the assistant imam of the mosque, proposing meetings, or overpaying for a sandwich he would buy at a mosque fund-raiser. In time, many of the mosque’s older members had made the man for a government informant, according to mosque leaders. They said that he seemed to focus most of his attention on younger black members and visitors.
“It’s easy to influence someone with the dollar,” said Mr. Muhammed, a longtime member of the mosque. “Especially these guys coming out of prison.”
The members of the mosque now believe that Maqsood was the government informant at the center of the case involving four men from Newburgh arrested and charged this week with having plotted to explode bombs at Jewish centers in New York City. The government has said that the four men, several of whom visited the mosque in Newburgh and all of whom spent time in prison, were eager to kill Jews, and prosecutors charged that they had actually gone so far as to plant what they believed to be bombs on the streets of New York, an act the F.B.I. captured on videotape.
The government case revolves significantly around the work of an informant who facilitated the men’s desire to mount a terrorist attack.
The role of informants has been a constant in the terror cases made by federal and local authorities since 9/11. And just as constant have been the attempts by lawyers for those charged to portray their clients as dupes, people who would not have committed to do harm without the provocation of the informants.
Those attempts have typically failed. Juries, evidently unmoved by claims about the conduct and influence of the informants, have routinely convicted those charged in the terror plots, like the five men charged with wanting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey, and the young Pakistani immigrant from Queens charged with conspiring to plant a bomb in Herald Square.
And, it turns out, an entrapment defense failed in a case involving the informant in this week’s bomb plot investigation.
The informant was not identified in court papers unsealed on Wednesday in Manhattan. But according to a person briefed on the case, the informant is Shahed Hussain, the central prosecution witness in a 2004 federal sting focusing on a pizzeria owner and an imam at an Albany mosque.
Lawyers for those men argued that Mr. Hussain, who had posed as a wealthy Muslim radical, had entrapped their clients in an ultimately fictional plot to kill a Pakistani diplomat with a missile. But a federal jury convicted the two men, and they were sentenced to 15 years in prison.
“Any defense attorney worth his salt is going to argue entrapment,” Raymond W. Kelly, the New York police commissioner, said Friday when asked about the use of an informant in the Newburgh case. “The argument will be made in court. But in essence, the law says you have to be otherwise not disposed to do the crime to successfully use the defense of entrapment.”
The government’s court filings present the informant as someone who merely assisted the violent intentions of the four men. Federal authorities have asserted that one of the defendants, James Cromitie, was angry about the war in Afghanistan and was determined to strike at America, and later at Jews. The informant, who told the men he had connections to a Pakistani terror group, then provided the men with what they believed to be sophisticated explosives and a missile.
Asked whether he thought the four men were a serious security risk before they were approached by the informant, Joseph M. Demarest Jr., who heads the F.B.I.’s New York office, said: “It was their plot and their plan that they pushed forward. We merely facilitated. They asked for the explosives. They asked for the Stingers, or rockets, I think, is the way they described it. They did leave the packages of what they believed to be real explosives, the bags, in front of two temples in the Bronx.”
Vincent L. Briccetti, who represents Mr. Cromitie, said he was aware of Mr. Hussain’s role in the Albany case, which was reported on Friday in The New York Post.
“His history is of interest to us,” Mr. Briccetti said.
Court records from the Albany case show that Mr. Hussain came to the United States from Pakistan in 1993 or 1994. He appears to have held a variety of jobs, and come to own a number of businesses and properties. But in 2002, he was charged with a scheme involving taking money to illegally help people in the Albany area get driver’s licenses.

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To avoid being deported, he agreed to assist the government — first taking part in a sting aimed at the driver’s license scheme, and later in a heroin trafficking case. In 2003, the F.B.I. enlisted him in a more ambitious case. They wanted him to help them learn more about the intentions of a man who they worried might be supportive of terror, Yassin Aref, and toward that end, began to focus on his friend Mohammad Mosharref Hossain.
Under the coaching of a federal agent, and often wearing a recording device, he met with the men, and presented himself as what he later at trial called “a wealthy radical.” Eventually, the government charged the two men with money laundering as part of a plot to acquire missiles, and perhaps use one to kill a Pakistani diplomat.
Mr. Hussain testified at length at the trial of the two men, and defense lawyers sought to portray him as a tool of an overly zealous government.
He said that he met with an F.B.I. agent before every encounter with the two men to go over his game plan.
“What Agent Coll used to tell me, I used to tell them exactly,” Mr. Hussain testified under cross-examination about his dealings with the F.B.I. agent and the two men.
“So you did exactly what Agent Coll told you?” he was asked by a defense lawyer.
“True,” he answered.
James E. Long, a lawyer who represented Mr. Hussain from 2002, when he was arrested, until 2006, refused to comment.
William C. Pericak, an assistant United States attorney in Albany who prosecuted Mr. Aref and Mr. Hossain, also would not comment about the informant. But after the convictions of the two men, he said, “You can’t put a percentage on how likely these guys would have been to commit an act of terrorism. But if a terrorist came to Albany, my opinion is that these guys would have assisted 100 percent.”
The man called Maqsood, before appearing in Newburgh, had first approached the Masjid Al-Noor mosque in nearby Wappingers Falls, according to members there. The imam and several board members said a man who called himself Maqsood started sporadically attending services there in 2007. He was flashy, they said, and bragged about his real estate business and properties. He drove a black Mercedes and always came alone.
Zubair Zoha, a former treasurer of the mosque, said the man asked him three times for the full list of members of the mosque, saying he wanted to approach potential customers. But he was largely ignored or dismissed.
He stopped coming, the members said, around June 2008.
It was then, according to the government’s court papers, that their informant struck up a relationship with Mr. Cromitie at the mosque in Newburgh, a set of dealings that would result in the bomb plot.
The imam in Newburgh, Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, said he was angry that the informant had associated his mosque with the scheme that had nothing to do with regular members. He condemned the plot, but questioned whether the men who were arrested would have committed to it had the informant not shown up.
Mr. Muhammad said he wondered whether he should have done anything differently once he had suspicions about the man named Maqsood.
“How do you go to the government about the government?” he asked.

Colin Moynihan, Nate Schweber and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.


Information Researched By: Sister Anonymous

US will eventually lose AAA credit rating, top investor says


US will eventually lose AAA credit rating, top investor says

By Raw Story Published: May 22, 2009 Updated 4 hours ago
The co-chief investment officer of the world’s largest bond fund said the US will eventually lose its top AAA credit rating the same day that Standard and Poor’s rating service downgraded Britain’s national debt from stable to negative.
The US will likely be downgraded in “at least three to four years, if that, but the market will recognize the problems before the rating services - just like it did today,” said Bill Gross of Pacific Investment Management Co.
Thursday’s market declines, Gross said, reflect the fact that investors fear the United States is “going the way of the UK - losing AAA rating which affects all financial assets and the dollar.”
Britain’s debt is approaching 100 percent of its gross domestic product. Standard and Poor’s says it “faces a one in three chance of a ratings cut.”
“US credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service on Thursday said it is comfortable with the AAA rating on the United States, but it is not guaranteed forever,” the Sydney Morning Herald wrote Friday.
“There are longer-term pressures on the rating, that’s very clear,” Steven Hess, lead analyst for Moody’s, told the paper
“Standard & Poor’s, asked on Thursday about market moves on concerns about the US sovereign credit rating, cited its January affirmation of the AAA rating.”
Gross’ bond fund said earlier this year that the Federal Reserve’s debt will likely mushroom to between $5 trillion and $6 trillion by the end of the year amid major efforts to stimulate the US economy.

Information Researched By: Sister Anonymous

State of the Art - With a Private MiFi Hot Spot, Be Online Wherever You Like -

just f.y.i......

State of the Art
Wi-Fi to Go, No Cafe Needed

Stuart Goldenberg
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Published: May 6, 2009
Someday, we’ll tell our grandchildren how we had to drive around town looking for a coffee shop when we needed to get online, and they’ll laugh their heads off. Every building in America has running water, electricity and ventilation; what’s the holdup on universal wireless Internet?
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Novatel's MiFi, a 3G Wi-Fi router.
Getting online isn’t impossible, but today’s options are deeply flawed. Most of them involve sitting rooted in one spot — in the coffee shop or library, for example. (Sadly, the days when cities were blanketed by free Wi-Fi signals leaking from people’s apartments are over; they all require passwords these days.)
If you want to get online while you’re on the move, in fact, you’ve had only one option: buy one of those $60-a-month cellular modems from Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile or AT&T. The speed isn’t exactly cable-modem speed, but it’s close enough. You can get a card-slot version, which has a nasty little antenna protuberance, or a U.S.B.-stick version, which cries out to be snapped off by a passing flight attendant’s beverage cart.
A few laptops have this cellular modem built in, which is less awkward but still drains the battery with gusto.
But imagine if you could get online anywhere you liked — in a taxi, on the beach, in a hotel with disgustingly overpriced Wi-Fi — without messing around with cellular modems. What if you had a personal Wi-Fi bubble, a private hot spot, that followed you everywhere you go?
Incredibly, there is such a thing. It’s the Novatel MiFi 2200, available from Verizon starting in mid-May ($100 with two-year contract, after rebate). It’s a little wisp of a thing, like a triple-thick credit card. It has one power button, one status light and a swappable battery that looks like the one in a cellphone. When you turn on your MiFi and wait 30 seconds, it provides a personal, portable, powerful, password-protected wireless hot spot.
The MiFi gets its Internet signal the same way those cellular modems do — in this case, from Verizon’s excellent 3G (high-speed) cellular data network. If you just want to do e-mail and the Web, you pay $40 a month for the service (250 megabytes of data transfer, 10 cents a megabyte above that). If you watch videos and shuttle a lot of big files, opt for the $60 plan (5 gigabytes). And if you don’t travel incessantly, the best deal may be the one-day pass: $15 for 24 hours, only when you need it. In that case, the MiFi itself costs $270.
In essence, the MiFi converts that cellular Internet signal into an umbrella of Wi-Fi coverage that up to five people can share. (The speed suffers if all five are doing heavy downloads at once, but that’s a rarity.)
Cellular wireless routers, as they’re called, have been available for years. The average person hasn’t even heard of this product category, but these routers are popular on, for example, Hollywood movie shoots. On-location cast and crew can kill their downtime online, sharing the signal from a single cellular card that’s broadcast via Wi-Fi.
Those machines, however, get no cell signal on their own; you have to supply your own cellular modem. They’re also big and metal and ugly. But the real deal-killer is that they have to be plugged into a power outlet. You can’t use one at the beach or in the woods unless you have a really, really long extension cord.
The MiFi is remarkable for its tiny size, its sleek good looks, its 30-foot range (it easily filled a large airport gate area with four-bar signal) — and the fact that it’s cordless and rechargeable.
How is this amazing? Let us count the ways.
First, you’re spared the plug-and-unplug ritual of cellular modems. You can leave the MiFi in your pocket, purse or laptop bag; whenever you fire up your laptop, netbook, Wi-Fi camera or game gadget, or wake up your iPhone or iPod Touch, you’re online.
Last week, I was stuck on a runway for two hours. As I merrily worked away online, complete with YouTube videos and file downloads, I became aware that my seatmate was sneaking glances. As I snuck counter-glances at him, I realized that he had no interest in what I was doing, but rather in the signal-strength icon on my laptop — on an airplane where there wasn’t otherwise any Wi-Fi signal. “I’m sorry,” he finally said, completely baffled, “but how are you getting a wireless signal?” He was floored when I pulled the MiFi from my pocket, its power light glowing evilly.
If he’d had a laptop, I would have happily shared my Wi-Fi cloud with him. The network password is printed right there on the bottom of the MiFi itself. That’s a clever idea, actually. Since the MiFi is in your possession, it’s impossible for anyone to get into your cloud unless you show it to them. Call it “security through proximity.”

The second huge advantage of the MiFi is that, as with any wireless router, you can share its signal with other people; up to five road warriors can enjoy the same connection. Your youngsters with their iPod Touches in the back of the van could hop online, for example, or you and your colleagues could connect and collaborate on a corporate retreat.
Verizon points out how useful the MiFi could be for college students working off-campus, insurance adjusters at a disaster site and trade show booth teams. (Incredibly, Verizon even suggests that you could use the MiFi at home as your primary family Internet service. Sharing a cellular-modem account was something it strenuously discouraged only two years ago.)
Some footnotes: First, the MiFi goes into sleep mode after 30 minutes of inactivity, to prolong its battery life.
Yes, it means that a single charge can get you through a full day of on-and-off Internet noodling, even though the battery is supposed to run for only four hours a charge (it’s rated at 40 hours of standby). But once the MiFi is asleep, your Wi-Fi bubble is gone until you tap the power button.
It’s probably the height of ingratitude to complain about having to press a single button to get yourself online. But if the MiFi is flopping around somewhere in the bottom of your bag, just finding it can be a minor hassle.
Fortunately, you can turn off that sleep feature, or even change the inactivity interval before it kicks in. This gizmo is a full-blown wireless router with full-blown configuration controls. If you type into your Web browser’s address bar — a trick well known to network gurus — the MiFi’s settings pages magically appear. Now you can do geeky, tweaky tasks like changing the password or the wireless network name, limiting access to specific computers, turning on port forwarding (don’t ask) .
A final note: If your laptop has a traditional cellular modem, you can turn on a Mac OS X or Windows feature called Internet Sharing, which rebroadcasts the signal via Wi-Fi, just like the MiFi.
But the MiFi is infinitely easier to use and start up, doesn’t lock you into carrying around your laptop all the time, has better range and works even when your laptop battery is dead. (The MiFi recharges from a wall outlet; it still works as a hot spot while it’s plugged in.)
It’s always exciting when someone invents a new product category, and this one is a jaw-dropper. All your gadgets can be online at once, wherever you go, without having to plug anything in — no coffee shop required. Heck, it might even be worth showing the grandchildren.

Information Researched By: Sister Anonymous

Prosecutors Block Access to DNA Testing for Inmates

Prosecutors Block Access to DNA Testing for Inmates

Innocence Project, left; Center on Wrongful Convictions
Kenneth Reed, left, has offered to pay for the DNA test he says will clear him in a 1991 rape. Johnnie Lee Savory, right, says DNA would prove he was falsely convicted of a double murder.
Published: May 17, 2009
In an age of advanced forensic science, the first step toward ending Kenneth Reed’s prolonged series of legal appeals should be simple and quick: a DNA test, for which he has offered to pay, on evidence from the 1991 rape of which he was convicted.
Louisiana, where Mr. Reed is in prison, is one of 46 states that have passed laws to enable inmates like him to get such a test. But in many jurisdictions, prosecutors are using new arguments to get around the intent of those laws, particularly in cases with multiple defendants, when it is not clear how many DNA profiles will be found in a sample.
The laws were enacted after DNA evidence exonerated a first wave of prisoners in the early 1990s, when law enforcement authorities strongly resisted reopening old cases. Continued resistance by prosecutors is causing years of delay and, in some cases, eliminating the chance to try other suspects because the statute of limitations has passed by the time the test is granted.
Mr. Reed has been seeking a DNA test for three years, saying it will prove his innocence. But prosecutors have refused, saying he was identified by witnesses, making his identification by DNA unnecessary.
A recent analysis of 225 DNA exonerations by Brandon L. Garrett, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, found that prosecutors opposed DNA testing in almost one out of five cases. In many of the others, they initially opposed testing but ultimately agreed to it. In 98 of those 225 cases, the DNA test identified the real culprit.
In Illinois, prosecutors have opposed a DNA test for Johnnie Lee Savory, convicted of committing a double murder when he was 14, on the grounds that a jury was convinced of his guilt without DNA and that the 175 convicts already exonerated by DNA were “statistically insignificant.”
In the case of Robert Conway, a mentally incapacitated man convicted of stabbing a shopkeeper to death in 1986 in Pennsylvania, prosecutors have objected that DNA tests on evidence from the scene would not be enough to prove his innocence.
And in Tennessee, prosecutors withdrew their consent to DNA testing for Rudolph Powers, convicted of a 1980 rape, because the victim had an unidentified consensual sex partner shortly before the attack.
Such arguments, defense lawyers say, often ignore scientific advances like the ability to identify multiple DNA profiles in a single sample.
Defense lawyers also say the arguments ignore the proven power of DNA to refute almost every other type of evidence.
In a case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, for example, Lynne Abraham, the Philadelphia district attorney, argued that the defendant, Anthony Wright, was not entitled to DNA testing because of the overwhelming evidence presented at trial, including his confession, four witnesses and clothing stained with the victims’ blood that the police said was found at Mr. Wright’s home. The Pennsylvania DNA statute requires the courts to determine if there is a “reasonable possibility” that the test would prove innocence.
Prosecutors say they are concerned that convicts will seek DNA testing as a delay tactic or a fishing expedition, and that allowing DNA tests undermines hard-won jury verdicts and opens the floodgates to overwhelming requests.
“It’s definitely a matter of drawing the line somewhere,” said Peter Carr, the assistant district attorney who handled the case of Mr. Wright, who was accused of raping and killing a 77-year-old woman. The defendant did not request testing until 2005, three years after the statute was passed, Mr. Carr said, and in his view there was no possibility that the test would show innocence.
“There’s also the idea that you want finality for the victim’s sake,” Mr. Carr said. “If someone else’s semen was found at the crime scene, we’d have to talk to the victim’s family about whether the victim was sexually active.”
Barry Scheck, a co-founder of the Innocence Project, a New York legal advocacy group that uses DNA to help the wrongfully convicted, said that most prosecutors no longer resisted testing in cases like Mr. Wright’s, where there is one perpetrator. More obstacles arise, Mr. Scheck said, in cases with multiple defendants or cases where a test result might point to another suspect, even if it does not clearly prove the innocence of the defendant.

In one such case near Austin, Tex., a defendant who was convicted in the bludgeoning death of his wife requested a DNA test on a bloody bandanna found 100 feet from the house. On its own, a test of the bandanna would not prove the guilt or innocence of the defendant the same way testing semen in a rape case might. But if it matched DNA found at the scene of a similar crime in the same county, or DNA in a database of convicted felons, it would be significant evidence that someone else might be responsible — the kind of evidence that might plant a reasonable doubt in a juror’s mind or lead to a confession by a perpetrator.
Although such matches have been found in many cases, most state DNA statutes focus only on whether a test alone could prove innocence. The purpose of Tennessee’s DNA statute, a court there said, was “to establish the innocence of the petitioner and not to create conjecture or speculation that the act may have possibly been perpetrated by a phantom defendant.”
Law enforcement officials often say, “ ‘We’re not going to consider the possibility that a third party did it,’ ” Mr. Scheck said, adding, “which is completely crazy because you use the databank every day to make new criminal cases.”
In Mr. Reed’s case in East Baton Rouge Parish, the district attorney who first prosecuted the case and now his successor, Hillar C. Moore III, have appealed every DNA-related ruling in Mr. Reed’s favor and objected to even a hearing on the matter.
They have argued that Mr. Reed’s identity was not an issue in the trial because he was identified by the defendant, even though DNA evidence has repeatedly contradicted eyewitness identifications. They have argued that there was no way of knowing whether the evidence would yield a usable DNA profile — a question that would be settled by testing it.
The victim testified that two attackers had sexual intercourse with her, but the prosecutors now argue that it might have been only one, Mr. Reed’s accomplice. Even if Mr. Reed’s DNA was nowhere to be found, said Prem Burns, the first assistant district attorney, he would still be guilty of aiding the rapist.
Mr. Reed’s lawyers have argued that a test on a rape kit and semen could prove his innocence if it shows two distinct profiles and neither is a match.
But Ms. Burns said that under her reading of the law, the mere possibility that the test would show two profiles is not enough — Mr. Reed has to demonstrate, in advance, that a favorable test result would resolve his innocence without question.
But the prosecutors also seem to believe that Mr. Reed’s arguments are far-fetched. “There are simply too many ‘ifs’ in this case,” Mr. Moore wrote in a recent appeal.
Prosecutors said much the same when Douglas Warney, convicted of murder in Rochester in 1997, argued that a DNA test could lead to the real killer. They called his assertion “a drawn-out kind of sequence of if, if, if.” Yet that is exactly what happened after Mr. Warney’s DNA test, and the killer, when he was identified, confessed.
Nina Morrison, a lawyer for Mr. Wright, said: “The one thing I’ve learned in doing this for seven years is there’s no reason to guess or speculate. You can just do the test.”

Information Researched By: Sister Anonymous