U.S. Ignored Warnings Over Informant

Dick Cheney

The Iraqi informant’s German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was ‘not proven,’ and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches.

BERLIN — The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein’s suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush Administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the Iraq war.

Five senior officials from Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector codenamed Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball’s information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L.Powell also misstated Curveball’s claims in his pre-war presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

Details here from the Los Angeles Times.

Hey, Dick Cheney — Are the L.A. Times and the BND now “dishonest and reprehensible” too? Or is it you whose lies kill thousands?

New Orleans Cops Ordered to Stop Looters

From the AP via the New York Times:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mayor Ray Nagin ordered 1,500 police officers to leave their search-and-rescue mission Wednesday night and return to the streets to stop looting that has turned increasingly hostile as the city plunges deeper into chaos.

“They are starting to get closer to heavily populated areas — hotels, hospitals, and we’re going to stop it right now,” Nagin said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The number of officers called off the search-and-rescue mission amounts to virtually the entire police force in New Orleans.

It gets worse:

‘A-List’ Firms Talk Merger

In 1918, the last year the Red Sox won it all, Richard Hale and Dudley Dorr merged their firms to form Hale and Dorr, which grew into one of Boston’s largest and most prestigious law firms. Now the partners who followed Mr. Hale and Mr. Dorr are moving toward a new merger, one that would double the size of their firm to nearly 1,000 lawyers.

According to executives involved in the negotiations, Hale and Dorr is in serious talks with Wilmer Cutler Pickering, a Washington, D.C., firm that includes Lloyd N. Cutler, former counsel to presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and C. Boyden Gray, counsel to former president George Bush. Both firms have about 500 lawyers and revenues of about $300 million. Wilmer Cutler ranked number 10 on the American Lawyers’ “A-List” of top US law firms; Hale and Dorr was number 13.

Details here from The Boston Globe.

Bronx Judiciary Awash in Patronage, All Legal

Last summer, Justice Douglas E. McKeon, up for re-election to State Supreme Court in the Bronx, decided he needed to raise some campaign money. The judge, though, did not turn to the residents of the Bronx to back his candidacy. Instead, his campaign solicited money from scores of lawyers, including many who regularly appear before him in court. Within weeks, his campaign had reaped more than $50,000.

Justice McKeon’s mixing of politics and the courts is neither illegal nor isolated. Over the years, the roughly 20 judges who handle civil litigation in Supreme Court in the Bronx � virtually all of whom owe their jobs to the Bronx Democratic Party � have operated, day in and day out, in a world suffused with politics.

Consider, for instance, the court’s dealings with Gerald L. Sheiowitz. Judges on what is known as the civil term of the Supreme Court in the Bronx have awarded him more than $300,000 in legal work in recent years, a formidable sum among the lawyers who work the courtrooms on the Grand Concourse.

No one disputes that Mr. Sheiowitz is a lawyer in good standing. But courthouse regulars also understand why Mr. Sheiowitz was treated so generously. He is the treasurer of the Bronx Democratic Party. That fact may also help explain why judges in the Bronx have awarded his daughter more than $50,000 in court work, even though she is not a lawyer.

Something rotten in the Bronx? Details here from The New York Times.

Hearing For Soldier Accused in Attack on Fellow Troops

A deadly grenade attack on troops sleeping in their tents in Kuwait is all the more jarring for survivors and relatives because of the man accused: a fellow U.S. soldier.

An Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, begins Monday for Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, who is charged with killing two officers and injuring 14 others in the March 23 attack.

CNN/The AP have all the details here.

Computer Thief Steals Court’s Computers During Trial for Computer Theft

NOVATO, Calif. (AP) — A man was convicted of various theft charges, after prosecutors say he stole computers from the courthouse while he was on trial for computer theft.

”It just amazed me that someone could be in the middle of a jury trial for a burglary involving computers and immediately get involved in another burglary at the Civic Center,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Jerry Niess.

Jon Houston Eipp, 39, of Novato pleaded guilty Monday in three separate cases involving 10 different charges, including burglary, theft, drug possession, attempted auto theft and more. He could be facing nearly five years in prison when he is sentenced next month.

In an interview Monday night at the county jail, Eipp said he stole the computers ”for personal reasons.”

”I needed help, and I didn’t know how to ask for help,” he said. ”And I guess, in my crazy way, that was my way of asking for help. Help with my drug problems, help with my sanity.”

Details here from the AP via the New York Times.

Remembering September 11, 2001 — Gina Sztejnberg

Gina Sztejnberg

I recently came across a website called the 2,996 Project that sought to have at least one blogger sign up to memorialize every one of the 2,996 victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on their fifth anniversary. I signed up, and I was randomly assigned to memorialize (pronounced “Steinberg”), a wife and mother of two who perished at the World Trade Center on that grim morning.

I never met Ms. Sztejnberg (who I will take the liberty of calling “Gina”) and I’ve never met anyone who knew her. But I’ve learned a lot about her, and I’ll do my best to memorialize her here, in honor not only of her and her family, but in honor of all those who so senselessly died on this morning five years ago. So here goes:

Gina was born in Wroclaw, Poland, to Jewish parents who had escaped the Holocaust. Her family moved to Russia, then back to Poland, and then emigrated to the United States, moving to Brooklyn in the 1960s when Gina was 15 years old. Gina excelled, earning a degree in mathematics from the City University of New York in 1970.

Gina found her husband-to-be, Michael Sztejnberg, at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. They had met once before, when Michael had come to live in Gina’s home city of Wroclaw, Poland, as a teenager. They married in New York and moved to Ridgewood, New Jersey, where they raised two daughters, Laura and Julie.

Gina and Michael and their two daughters were avid travellers, visiting many of the fifty states and more than a dozen foreign countries, including China and Thailand. Two years before she died, Gina and Michael took their daughters to Wroclaw to see the city where their mother was born. Gina meticulously planned these trips down to the smallest detail, making sure that the family would be comfortable no matter where they went.

Gina Sztejnberg

On September 11, 2001, Gina was working as a database architect consultant for Marsh & McLennan on the 96th floor of the North tower of the World Trade Center. As usual, Gina and Michael drove together to lower Manhattan early that morning. Michael dropped Gina off at the WTC at 6:45 a.m. and continued on to his job as Senior Vice President of J.P. Morgan Chase. Michael never saw Gina again.

At 8:46 a.m., approximately two hours after Gina arrived at work, the first plane, United Flight 11, slammed into Gina’s tower between the 92nd and 98th floors — right where Gina worked. Some 27 minutes later, the second plane struck the South tower. The South tower was the first to collapse, at about 10:05 a.m. Some 24 minutes later, at 10:29 a.m., the North Tower — Gina’s tower — also collapsed. Gina never made it out. She is listed as a “confirmed” victim, meaning that some of her remains were eventually found and identified.

Gina was 52 years old at the time of her death. Her husband Michael was 55, and her daughters were 22 and 26.

I am tempted to vent my anger and frustration toward those who senselessly took Gina’s life. But that’s not our purpose here.

Our purpose is to remember Gina, and the 2,995 other innocent people who died on this morning five years ago. May they rest in peace, and may our nation never forget them.

On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, honoring those who had died there fighting to preserve our young nation. Although Gina and the others who died on 9/11 were not solidiers and did not die fighting a war, their deaths and our rememberances of them may still serve to strengthen the great democracy that their murderers sought to destroy. In President Lincoln’s [slightly altered] words:

[T]he brave men [and women], living and dead, who struggled [on September 11th], have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did [on September 11th]. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who [struggled and died] [on September 11th] have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

So here’s to Gina Sztejnberg, and to all the other heros we lost on that dreadful morning five years ago. They will never be forgotten.

More information about Gina can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Detroit ‘Sleeper Cell’ Prosecutor Faces Probe

DETROIT — Once trumpeted as one of the Justice Department’s significant triumphs against terrorism, the case targeting the so-called “Detroit sleeper cell” began less than a week after the attack on the World Trade Center. It was only after a jury convicted two men of supporting terrorism that the flimsiness of the government’s case became clear.

As hidden evidence spilled out and the Justice Department abandoned the effort, federal investigators began to wonder whether the true conspiracy in the case was perpetrated by the prosecution.

Now a federal grand jury in Detroit is investigating whether the lead prosecutor, Richard Convertino, or anyone else should be indicted for unfairly tipping the scales.

It is a highly unusual case. No charges have been brought and many details remain secret, but information in public documents and testimony in U.S. District Court in Detroit suggest an effort by federal prosecutors and important witnesses to mislead defense lawyers and deceive the jury. U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen said the government acted “outside the Constitution.”

Details here from The Washington Post.