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Monday, April 30, 2007

Memo from Karl Rove, Bill Crystal, Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby, "Bob, its not Personal, its just New World Order, Neo-Con Business" !!

FBI director pledges help

By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff April 28, 2007

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said he pledged the bureau's help in cracking down on gang violence throughout the state during a meeting yesterday with Massachusetts State Police Colonel Mark F. Delaney.

"What is clear is that we have to work together to address the problem," Mueller told the Globe yesterday. Mueller said FBI officials in Boston have been meeting regularly with Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis and other law enforcement officials about tapping more federal resources to target gangs and deal with an increase in homicides.

" My own view is we ought to do whatever we can" to help law enforcement lower the homicide rate "because of the dramatic impact on a community from violent crime," Mueller said.

The FBI could assist with intelligence gathering on gangs that cross state and national boundaries, track weapons, crunch data, and work to bring more gang-related cases into federal court, Mueller said.

During an interview with the Globe yester day after privately addressing a class at Harvard Business School, Mueller talked about gang violence; balancing civil liberties and counter-terrorism efforts; and fugitive gangster James "Whitey" Bulger .

"We'll take whatever time and resources are needed to locate him," said Mueller when asked whether catching Bulger, a longtime FBI informant who fled just before his 1995 federal racketeering indictment, would remain a top priority. The former South Boston crime boss, one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted, is charged with killing 19 people

Noting that lawsuits are still pending against the government, Mueller declined to comment on demands for an official FBI apology from relatives of Bulger's victims; a recent court judgment condemning the bureau; or on a host of lawsuits spawned by the FBI's handling of informants from the 1960s to the 1990s.

In September, a federal judge found that the FBI's mishandling of Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi caused the 1984 murder of Quincy fisherman John McIntyre, and ordered the government to pay $3.2 million to his family.

The judge found that the FBI failed to properly supervise the gangsters' handler, retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr., who was sentenced to 10 years in prison after his 2002 federal racketeering conviction for protecting Bulger and Flemmi. Connolly is also slated to stand trial on state murder charges in Florida in September.

Six similar civil lawsuits brought against the government by victims of Bulger and Flemmi, who is serving a life sentence for killing 10 people, have yet to go to trial.

And in another case, a federal judge in Boston is expected to issue a decision soon on a civil suit brought against the government by four men who were wrongly convicted of a 1965 gangland murder and say the FBI is to blame. Joseph Salvati and Peter J. Limone both spent more than 30 years in prison before their convictions were overturned by a state judge in 2001 after secret FBI documents that may have helped them prove their innocence were discovered. The two others, Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco , died in prison.

Yesterday, Mueller, who served as a federal prosecutor in Boston in the 1980s, said he couldn't discuss any of the civil or criminal cases. He said, however, that the FBI has revised its informant guidelines and added more oversight as a result of the Bulger scandal.

"I think the public should recognize that what happened, happened years ago," said Mueller, adding that the FBI "put into place mechanisms to prevent this from happening in the future."

"Most importantly," Mueller said, "look at the FBI today."

He said the bureau is working with local law enforcement to target violent crime, cybercrime, and terrorism.

Mueller also talked about the FBI's need to use national security letters to obtain information critical to terrorism investigations while balancing privacy rights. Under the Patriot Act, the letters allow the FBI to get records from Internet service providers, telephone companies, banks, credit bureaus, and other businesses without a subpoena or judicial oversight.

The agency has come under fire for its use of the letters and put a compliance program in place. Last week the bureau's legal counsel met with privacy advocates to consider their suggestions on the guidelines for using them.

Mueller said yesterday that he plans to sit down with privacy advocates to hear their concerns. The letters are an essential tool for the FBI, said Mueller. "One of the things we are careful to do is use the least intrusive means possible" in using them, he added.

Art Hostage comments:

To coin a phrase, "The Buck stops here" meaning that the FBI, although much more transparent and honest than in the past, still carry the stigma of past mis-deeds because the FBI has only addressed its short-comings with low level scape-goats, rather than the head of the Beast being cut off to start afresh.

To give credibility to claims the FBI have left the past behind, Robert Mueller should "fall on his sword" and quietly retire, allowing the new FBI Director, Ken Kaiser in my opinion, to take up the helm, hit the ground running, and show the public the New Improved FBI are fit for purpose.

That is not to say Robert Mueller is guilty of anything specific, but the gesture of his retirement will give the FBI a new lease of life and regain the respect of the Public, who's help is desperately needed in the ongoing fight against organised criminals as well as Terrorists.

If Mr Mueller is going to need a Presidential pardon, (for indiscretions in Boston back in the 1980's) in the future he may well think that President Bush is his best bet.

Robert Mueller should however, act early and get his name added below Scooter Libby, who will be pardoned as George W. Bush leaves the Oval Office, January 2009.

Being the fall guy Mr Mueller is much better than being the defendant, getting convicted, and then relying on a new President for a pardon !!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Retirement, Revealing, Confirming, without the Burden of Office

FBI Director Pledges Help Against Gang Violence

FBI Director Robert Mueller says he pledged his agency's help against gang violence in Massachusetts during a meeting Friday with the head of the state police.

In an interview with "The Boston Globe", Mueller said he believes the FBI should help local law enforcement when it can to help cut violent crime. He said the FBI can help gather intelligence on international and interstate gangs, help track weapons and work to bring more gang cases into federal court.

He said Boston FBI officials have been meeting with Police Commissioner Edward Davis and other law enforcement officials about using more federal resources against gangs.

Mueller also said catching Boston's fugitive gangster James Whitey Bulger -- who is on the FBI's Top 10 list -- remains a priority.

In a two-day visit to the Boston area, Mueller also has spoken to groups at Harvard University

Tenet Details Efforts to Justify Invading Iraq
Former CIA Director Says White House Focused on the Idea Long Before 9/11

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 28, 2007; Page A01

White House and Pentagon officials, and particularly Vice President Cheney, were determined to attack Iraq from the first days of the Bush administration, long before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and repeatedly stretched available intelligence to build support for the war, according to a new book by former CIA director George J. Tenet.

Although Tenet does not question the threat Saddam Hussein posed or the sincerity of administration beliefs, he recounts numerous efforts by aides to Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to insert "crap" into public justifications for the war. Tenet also describes an ongoing fear within the intelligence community of the administration's willingness to "mischaracterize complex intelligence information."

"There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraq threat," Tenet writes in "At the Center of the Storm," to be released Monday by HarperCollins. The debate "was not about imminence but about acting before Saddam did."

White House counselor Dan Bartlett yesterday called Tenet a "true patriot" but disputed his conclusions, saying "the president did wrestle with those very serious questions." Responding to reports from the book in yesterday's New York Times, Bartlett suggested that the former CIA director might have been unaware of all the discussions. President Bush, Bartlett said on NBC's "Today Show," "weighed all the various consequences before he did make a decision."

In their threat briefings for the incoming Bush administration in late 2000, Tenet writes, CIA officials did not even mention Iraq. But Cheney, he says, asked for an Iraq briefing and requested that the outgoing Clinton administration's defense secretary, William S. Cohen, provide information on Iraq for Bush.

A speech by Cheney in August 2002 "went well beyond what our analysis could support," Tenet writes. The speech charged, among other things, that Hussein had restarted his nuclear program and would "acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon . . . perhaps within a year." Caught off-guard by the remarks, which had not been cleared by the CIA, Tenet says he considered confronting the vice president on the subject but did not.

"Would that have changed his future approach?" he asks. "I doubt it but I should not have let silence imply an agreement." Policymakers, he writes, "have a right to their own opinions, but not their own set of facts."

New details about the origins of the current terrorist threat -- and the way the Clinton and Bush White Houses dealt with it -- add to a growing body of information about the tumultuous late 1990s and the first years of the new century. For the future, Tenet describes his deepest fear as "the nuclear one." He is convinced, he writes, that this is where Osama bin Laden "and his operatives desperately want to go. They understand that bombings by cars, trucks, trains and planes will get them some headlines, to be sure. But if they manage to set off a mushroom cloud, they will make history."

Despite all efforts to thwart them, he says, "I do know one thing in my gut: al-Qa'ida is here and waiting."

The book breaks Tenet's long public silence since he resigned in June 2004 over what he considered White House attempts to turn him into a scapegoat, as U.S. efforts in Iraq were bogging down, for the faulty intelligence used to justify the invasion in the first place.

Tenet writes that Bush talked him out of resigning in May 2003. But he decided it was time to go nine months later when a book by The Washington Post's Bob Woodward quoted him as telling Bush in December 2002 that the intelligence case against Iraq was a "slam dunk," a statement he says was taken out of context but subsequently used by the administration to blame him for faulty Iraq intelligence. "I couldn't quit immediately over something that appeared in a book," Tenet writes, "but I didn't see any way I could or should stay on much longer." Bush made no attempt to keep him when he finally resigned in June 2004.

Tenet blames himself, among other things, for the hastily compiled October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, issued on the eve of a congressional vote authorizing the war. The NIE, he said, "should have been initiated earlier. I didn't think one was necessary. I was wrong." The document, he acknowledged, was "not cautious in key judgments" and at times used single sources who turned out to be wrong.

A perennial problem, he writes, was a tendency by intelligence analysts to assume other people thought like they did. When judging whether Hussein was lying when he said Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, "we did not account for . . . the mind set never to show weakness in a very dangerous neighborhood."

One of the "lowest moments of my seven-year tenure," Tenet recalls, was when a congressman told him in a public hearing in the spring of 2004 that "we depended on you, and you let us down."

Tenet's account of his CIA years moves through explanation, accusation, defensiveness and occasional apology. When he became acting director in December 1996, Tenet writes, he found an agency "in shambles," its budget slashed, its recruiting moribund and its morale "in the basement." Analysis and clandestine operations had deteriorated, and there was "no coherent, integrated and measurable long-range plan. That's where I focused my energy from day one."

Much of the first half of the book is a detailed account of what Tenet describes as efforts by himself and his lieutenants to meet the emerging al-Qaeda threat and to convince the White House to take aggressive action. Rejecting later criticism of CIA foot-dragging, Tenet writes that "after 9/11 some senior government officials contended that they were surprised at the size and nature of the attacks. Perhaps so, but they shouldn't have been. We had been warning about the threat at every opportunity."

He titles one chapter of the 549-page book "Missed Opportunities," but Tenet misses few opportunities himself to settle scores with Cheney and Rumsfeld and their top aides, and with Bush's first-term national security adviser and current secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. He characterizes Rice as a "remote" figure who "knew the president's mind well but tended to stay out of policy fights." Under Rice, he says, the National Security Council failed to explore options and reach consensus. Rumsfeld, he says, refused to recognize worsening reality in Iraq and on several occasions undercut CIA efforts with cavalier treatment of secret information.

By contrast, Tenet's treatment of Bush, who presented Tenet with a Medal of Freedom six months after his departure, is relatively gentle. He says he and others sometimes failed to give Bush the information he needed. "The president was not well served," he says by way of example, "because the NSC became too deferential to a postwar strategy that was not working."

Tenet writes defensively about the controversial program to intercept domestic telephone calls involving terrorism suspects. The program was Cheney's idea, and the vice president briefed "the leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees 12 times prior to its public disclosure" in late 2005.

He reiterates a claim last year by Bush that the CIA's harsh interrogations of captured al-Qaeda figures "helped disrupt plots aimed at locations in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, South Asia, and Central Asia." He says the agency used "the most aggressive" techniques -- which he does not detail -- on "a handful of the worst terrorists on the planet" and that the questioning was "carefully monitored at all times to ensure the safety of the prisoner."

Tenet describes as "baloney" a claim made in a book last year by journalist Ron Suskind that the agency overstated the value of intelligence collected from al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida, whom Suskind depicted as "mentally unstable." Zubaida, Tenet says, was central to many al-Qaeda operations and shared "critical information with his interrogators." Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, he says, initially told interrogators that he would talk only after seeing a lawyer in the United States. "Had that happened," Tenet writes, "I am confident that we would have obtained none of the information he had in his head about imminent threats against the American people."

Al-Qaeda has responded to the U.S. intelligence focus on young Arab men as potential risks, he says, by recruiting "jihadists with different backgrounds. I am convinced the next major attack against the United States may well be conducted by people with Asian or African faces, not the ones that many Americans are alert to."

Staff writers Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Art Hostage comments:

When public Officials retire they feel free to reveal some secrets about their role in public life, a sort of insiders views on the mechanisms of power.

As Robert Mueller is one of the longer serving distinguished Public Officials in the current Bush Administration, what will be the extent of Mr Mueller's memoirs?

Will the Gardner Theft and Whitey Bulger be topic's of debate?

I do hope the lack of ability, for obvious national security reasons, to reveal much about 9/11, and the circumstances of that dark day, will give Bob Mueller the impetuous to reveal more on the Gardner Theft and Whitey Bulger.

to be continued.....................

Friday, April 27, 2007

Listen,, Those are Screams for Justice from Heaven !!

Thousands of Nazi-Looted Works Are Held by Museums, Survey Says

By Catherine Hickley

April 27 (Bloomberg) -- Museums are hoarding thousands of artworks seized by the Nazis and doing too little, especially in Germany, to trace the prewar Jewish owners or their heirs, the authors of a new handbook on art restitution say.

During Hitler's 12-year rule, about 650,000 works were plundered in the biggest art heist ever, the New York-based Jewish Claims Conference estimates. Restitutions such as the city of Berlin's return last year of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's 1913 ``Berlin Street Scene'' are only a start, said Gunnar Schnabel, who compiled ``Nazi Looted Art'' (Proprietas Verlag) with historian Monika Tatzkow. The book will be published in English in June.

``It's like hiding a nuclear bomb under the bedcovers,'' Schnabel said in an interview in Berlin before an April 23-24 congress on looted art held in nearby Potsdam. ``There are so many cases that need to be cleared up, thousands of them in Germany alone.''

Before World War II, Jewish art lovers were behind some of Europe's greatest private collections. The Nazis created a bureaucracy devoted to looting them. Hitler appointed a commission to hunt down old masters for a planned museum in his home town of Linz, while Hermann Goering scoured Europe to expand the private collection he kept at his country estate near Berlin. The Gestapo ransacked museums and homes for ``degenerate'' modern artworks.

In the five years after the war, looted art was collected by the allies and returned to their countries of origin. Yet until the collapse of communism in 1989, little was done to find the rightful owners, says Christian Kennedy, the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues at the U.S. State Department.

``Sixty years later, we are still trying to put the pieces together,'' he told delegates in Potsdam.

`Fair Solution'

For Germany, where the legal deadline for restitution claims was 1992, the non-binding Washington Principles agreed by 44 countries in 1998 are the framework for returning loot. The signatories agreed to identify stolen art, open up archives, publicize suspicious cases, establish a central registry of looted art and ``achieve a just and fair solution'' for the Nazi- persecuted prewar owners or their heirs.

While the Netherlands and Austria have almost completed their provenance research of public collections, Germany isn't living up to its commitments, said Georg Heuberger, head of the Jewish Claims Conference's Frankfurt office.

``The rupture in civilization that was the Holocaust can only be overcome through restitution,'' Heuberger said in an interview during the Potsdam conference. ``Instead of making special efforts, Germany is backpedaling. That disturbs me.''

Big Business

Culture Minister Bernd Neumann last year called a meeting of museum directors that pledged to coordinate provenance research nationwide and make restitution more transparent. The government is discussing funding of as much as 5 million euros ($6.8 million) for museums to conduct research, Neumann's spokesman Hagen-Philipp Wolf said in a telephone interview.

Lawyers, art detectives, genealogists and auction houses are filling the gap left by slow government action to help victims and heirs track down art. With every side taking a cut and art prices at records, restitution has become big business.

The lack of a central help desk means victims and heirs ``are forced to go to a lawyer or private researcher,'' Heuberger said. ``They then have to promise them 30 percent or 50 percent of the auction price to even get started. It's not a good situation for the heirs.''

Anita Halpin, the London-based heir of ``Berlin Street Scene,'' sold the painting for a Kirchner record of $38.1 million at a Christie's International auction in New York -- after talks with the Berlin Senate collapsed on a purchase that would have kept the work in Berlin's own Bruecke Museum.

Cosmetics Mogul

The buyer was cosmetics mogul Ronald S. Lauder's Neue Galerie on New York's Fifth Avenue. The gallery also purchased a Gustav Klimt portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, restituted by the Austrian government, for $135 million last year.

The Kirchner return unleashed what Neumann termed an ``emotional debate'' in Germany. Bernd Schultz, head of Berlin auction house Villa Grisebach, wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of ``unscrupulous, sharp restitution lawyers in the U.S.'' seeking ``to break open all the German museums as a boost for the international art market.''

Similar criticism surfaced in the Netherlands, where a court in February ordered the heir of gallery owner Jacques Goudstikker to pay her lawyer 7.9 million euros ($10.7 million) for his help in recovering more than 200 works from the Dutch state.

Law Firms' Cut

David Rowland of the New York law firm Rowland & Petroff, the lawyer who secured the return of ``Berlin Street Scene,'' said that the real issue is justice for the heirs. He declined to disclose the percentage his firm charges.

``These claims that the law firms are taking all the profit, it's certainly not true in our case,'' he said in an interview in Potsdam. Though his firm works on a contingency basis -- charges a percentage only if the claim is successful -- ``it certainly doesn't approach the level of 50 percent,'' he said. ``It varies according to the circumstances.''

A German panel set up to settle disputed cases has only ruled on two, and the Kirchner painting is not one of them. The patrons' association of the Bruecke Museum, where ``Berlin Street Scene'' was previously housed, says it should have been, and blames the city government for the picture's loss.

Ludwig von Pufendorf, head of the association and a restitution lawyer, has filed a complaint against former Culture Senator Thomas Flierl and his deputy, Barbara Kisseler, for breach of trust. Berlin prosecutors said this week that they'll investigate it, after rejecting a previous request.

Museums and Money

``We have to find the money'' to do the provenance research, Martin Roth, the director of Dresden's public museums, said in an interview in Potsdam. He conceded that there may be ``hundreds'' of looted objects in Dresden's collections.

Another obstacle, Schnabel and Heuberger say, is that museums neglect to publicize art that is suspected of being stolen for fear of losing important works.

The public database , where museums should list art of dubious provenance, mainly contains art lost through Soviet plundering after the war. Only a handful of ``the suspicious cases'' are included, Schnabel says.

That contrasts with the U.S., where a portal set up by the American Association of Museums has drawn 155 museums listing 25,424 artworks that may have been looted by the Nazis.

To contact the writer on this story: Catherine Hickley in Berlin at .

Art Hostage comments:

Michel Van Rijn
Glorified and sanctified be God's great name throughout the world which He has created according to His will.

May He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honoured, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us
and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

He who creates peace in His celestial heights, may He create peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

PR Disaster for Police !!

Widower sues police over lost ring
By Nic Brunetti

A WIDOWER who is suing Thames Valley Police over the loss of his dead wife's engagement ring, has told a court the force had been "obstructive and arrogant".

Dr Keith Sugden, 54, believes his wife's ring was either accidentally incinerated or stolen after being put in a freezer in police custody.

His wife, Dr Joan Sugden, of Middle Road, Denham, was found dead in Broken Gate Lane, near Gerrards Cross, in November 2005. Police accept that she was wearing two rings when they discovered her body - which were later lost.

Dr Sugden has received compensation for the loss of his wife's wedding ring, but nothing for the engagement ring because of a dispute over its value.

He claims it was a 1920s art deco masterpiece worth £9,000 and is suing for around that sum, a fee for additional grief caused, and for costs.

Police however, deny the ring is worth that amount.

Dr Sugden, who represented himself at Uxbridge County Court last Thursday, said his solicitor had tried his best to settle the matter out of court, but the "obstructive and arrogant manner" of the police left him no option but to sue.

He said: "I am 100 per cent sure that she was wearing that ring about midday on the day that she disappeared."

He said the ring contained a two carat sapphire, 12 diamonds and 14 sapphire slips. It had been a gift to his grandmother.

Barrister Peter Stagg, for Thames Valley Police, suggested the jewels may have fallen off or she could have been wearing a different ring as only a plain band was found by police. This was visible in a photo taken of her body.

Dr Sugden however, believes the ring is swivelled around in the photo.

Mr Stagg suggested: "You were so angry, understandably some might say, about the disappearance of the property, you have convinced yourself she was wearing the ring."

Enis Lake, 54, a close friend of Dr Joan Sugden, told the court she never saw her without her ring, even when swimming or on holiday. Psychiatrist Dr Sugden, 57, suffered from depression and was found dead in woodland.

Police initially arrested her husband on suspicion of murder but he was not charged. A coroner later recorded an open verdict, saying there had been no foul play. It is believed she died from hypothermia.

The case was adjourned.

Posted by: pwish, everywhere on 9:59am today
Good Luck Dr Sugden, you're up against one of the most corrupt and self righteous organisations in the world, I hope you win.

Good Luck Dr Sugden, you're up against one of the most corrupt and self righteous organisations in the world, I hope you win. Quote Report this postPosted by: Sally on 11:24am today

give the man his compensation, they are just being completely arsey about this its sad.

give the man his compensation, they are just being completely arsey about this its sad.Quote Report this postPosted by: Jan on 12:15pm today

Best of luck with the worlds most arrogant police force.
Best of luck with the worlds most arrogant police force.

Art Hostage comments:

Another Public Relations disaster for Police.

The "Them and Us" Culture prevents co-operation between the public citizen and Police/Law Enforcement.

The appearance of arrogance sends a negative message to the Public and further alienates Police/Law Enforcement.

Far from being vilified by the public, criminals have a glamour attached to them, whereby Police/Law Enforcement are regarded as the real bad guys.

What a perverse, vacuous, mainstream dishonest world we live in, unfortunately.

Any chance of a good news story about Police being sensitive towards the public??

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Swiss Cheese Policing Can Result in Losing your Head if you help Police !!

Terror leaks inquiry calls grow

Pressure is continuing for an inquiry into claims anti-terror intelligence leaks had put lives at risk.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke described as "beneath contempt" those who leaked details to the media.

Both government and police figures have come under suspicion. Tory leader David Cameron said a Whitehall inquiry was needed - but Tony Blair rejected that.

Commons leader Jack Straw said a police inquiry would be appropriate if anyone had "prima facie" evidence of a leak.

On Tuesday, DAC Clarke, the UK's counter terrorism chief, said there were a "small number of misguided individuals who betray confidences".

'Presentational advantage'

He did not specify where the leaks were coming from, but suggested culprits were trying to "squeeze out some short-term presentational advantage" through secret briefings.

In the Commons on Thursday, shadow commons leader Theresa May asked why, when newspaper reports suggested the source of the leak was the home secretary's special adviser, the government was refusing an independent inquiry.

Mr Straw said her allegations were "wholly unsubstantiated", but said the claims that there had been leaks were serious, and could interfere in a criminal inquiry.

The truth is we can't find out unless we have a leak inquiry and that's why we need to have one

David Cameron

He added: "If anybody has prima facie evidence in the respect of a leak.... and I mean prima facie evidence, I don't just mean newspaper reports, it's a matter for a police inquiry."

Other reports suggest the leaks might have come from Scotland Yard itself.

The Lib Dems have written to West Midlands police to ask them to confirm they will be investigating the leaks. Home Affairs spokesman Nick Clegg told the BBC the Official Secrets Act may have been broken.

Categorical denial

The Conservatives have asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell to launch a separate inquiry.

On Wednesday Mr Cameron's calls were rebuffed by the prime minister, who said "as far as I'm aware", no minister, civil servant or special adviser had leaked information.

On Thursday Mr Cameron told the BBC: "The truth is we can't find out unless we have a leak inquiry and that's why we need to have one."

The BBC has learnt that Home Secretary John Reid has already denied that his special advisers had anything to do with leaks of police anti-terror intelligence over the Birmingham raids in January.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti wrote to Mr Reid about the issue in February, shortly after reading about police concerns their operation was being undermined. She told the BBC she had got "a completely categorical denial".

Liberty has also put in Freedom of Information requests on the issue and also about what guidance was being given about handling requests for information on "ongoing operations".

The Home Office has asked for two extensions to reply, but has said it will do so by 3 May.

Labour MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath Roger Godsiff said there should be an internal inquiry to establish whether anyone in the police was responsible for the leak.

"If it is subsequently found that they had abused their position, there should be criminal charges preferred," he told the programme.

He said the same went for any Home Office officials, if they were involved.

Straw rejects calls for inquiry into anti-terror leaks

Paul Owen and agencies

Thursday April 26, 2007

Jack Straw today rejected opposition demands for a full Whitehall inquiry into claims that officials leaked details of an anti-terror operation to the media before arrests were made.
Meanwhile, it emerged that the home secretary, John Reid, had denied earlier this year that officials from his department were involved in the leaks.
The Guardian has learned that journalists received up to three separate briefings from officials and police about allegations a group of men were planning to abduct and behead a Muslim British soldier.

Nine men were arrested in a series of raids in Birmingham in January; six men were subsequently charged with terror offences.
One of the officials who leaked information was from the Home Office, the Guardian has been told.
In a letter to Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, the human rights pressure group, in February, the home secretary wrote: "I can ... assure you that my special advisers did not brief the media on operational matters on or off the record, and that it is not their practice to do so."

Mr Reid also noted that on the morning of the operation he "twice appealed to the media to stop speculating about the nature of the alleged plot".
In the Commons today, Mr Straw said that he "wholly deprecated and deplored" such leaks, but argued that the allegations potentially involved interference with a criminal investigation and were therefore a matter for police.

Opposition parties have demanded formal inquiries after Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke of the Metropolitan police revealed concerns about a series of leaks and said that they could have placed lives at risk.

The shadow home secretary, David Davis, asked the cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, to launch a formal inquiry into news stories that emerged concerning a counter-terrorism operation in Birmingham on January 31.

And the Liberal Democrats wrote to Chief Constable Paul Scott-Lee of West Midlands police asking him to confirm his force would launch a probe.

During prime minister's questions yesterday, the Tory leader, David Cameron, asked Mr Blair to guarantee that the leaks had not come from either ministers or special advisers.

The prime minister said that they had not come from those sources "as far as I am aware".
Referring to the Guardian's front-page story today, the shadow leader of the Commons, Theresa May, said: "Contrary to assurances given by the home secretary to the shadow attorney general, it is reported today that the source of the leak is the home secretary's special adviser.
"Why is the government refusing an independent inquiry?"

She said that the Home Office had twice delayed an answer to a freedom of information (FoI) request from Liberty about media briefing on the raid and demanded John Reid make a Commons statement "at the first opportunity".

Accusing her of "wholly unsubstantiated" allegations, Mr Straw said: "These are very serious allegations and I agree with those who say that if they are that serious then they should be investigated by the police and not by a conventional leak inquiry."

He pledged to follow up the FoI request.
For the Liberal Democrats, David Heath demanded Mr Reid come to the house on Monday to confirm a police investigation had been launched.

Mr Straw said he could not guarantee this, but that the home secretary was "assiduous" in responding to such requests.
Andrew Mackay (Con, Bracknell) said that the delay in dealing with Liberty's FoI request was "unacceptable" and "harming good governance".

Mr Straw said that the home secretary had the right, in appropriate circumstances, to resist FoI applications.
Julie Kirkbride (Con, Bromsgrove) persisted: "Given the importance of this matter and that life could have been put at stake as the police said yesterday, surely you will press your colleagues to come forward with that leak inquiry?"

Mr Straw replied: "It is precisely because I regard it as very serious that I think the appropriate avenue, if there is any prima facie evidence, is a police inquiry rather than a leak inquiry."
David Gauke (Con, SW Herts) hit back: "In recent years the government has undertaken leak inquiries into relatively minor matters such as details of the refurbishment of 10 Downing Street."

He said: "Do you believe that government policy at the moment, as far as leak inquiries are concerned, is that a leak inquiry will be held if the leak embarrasses the government but will not be held if the identity of the leaker would embarrass the government?"

Mr Straw rejected this, saying it was a standard line from the Conservative "brief" on the issue.
Stressing again the gravity of the allegations, he added: "They potentially involve an interference with a criminal investigation.
"I think if anybody has prima facie evidence in respect of the leak - and I don't just mean newspaper reports - then it's a matter for a police inquiry."

Mr Cameron renewed his call for an inquiry today.

"This whole area is very worrying. It is very important that our police forces are able to do their job in terms of counter-terrorism, and the strategy of leaking and briefing and pre-announcing things is extremely dangerous in this area," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

Art Hostage comments:

How on earth do Political leaders/Law Enforcement expect people to come forward with information if there is a real risk of their identities being leaked?

Not only do Informants NOT get paid, but now, they are hung out to dry and their identity is leaked just for good measure.

No wonder intelligence gathering has suffered a 90% fall in the last two years.

If this is how Law Enforcement and Politicians deal with gathering intelligence to prevent Terrorism, then the outlook for conventional criminal intelligence gathering is poor to say the least.

If anyone has important intelligence to offer Police, then for now keep it to yourself until there is a change of heart and incentive.

You have been warned !!

(Shakes Head and leaves room in disgust !!)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

When Recovery with Reward is Unlawful !!


FBI expert raps thieves
Exclusive by Paul O'Hare The Daily Record

THE gang who stole a £50million masterpiece from a Scottish castle can never cash in on it, says a former FBI agent and art expert.

Thomas McShane told the thieves it would be best to leave the Leonardo Da Vinci painting in a railway luggage locker and tip off police.

The Madonna And The Yarnwinder was pinched in 2003 from Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire - home of the Duke of Buccleuch - by a four-man gang.

But Thomas, who has recovered more than £450million of stolen art during his career, reckons it was an opportunist theft.

He said: "What they have is the equivalent of the Mona Lisa and they are never going to get rid of it. It will show up eventually."

And Thomas hit out at the lack of security at the castle.

He said: "What bank can you walk into in Scotland and see £50million on the wall with a tour guide protecting it? "We have to wake up.

"What you had with the Da Vinci was a £50million artwork saying, 'Takeme, take me' and they took it. It is such a shame."

The theft is number seven on the FBI's top 10 art crimes.

One of the robbers told witnesses the raid was a police training exercise.

The gang fled in a white Volkswagen Golf, later found abandoned near the castle.

It is thought the thieves then used a black BMW to escape.

And Thomas, 63, believes photos taken by a tourist couple at the time could be invaluable.

He said: "You are so lucky to have those people from New Zealand who were there with their cameras and took pictures.

"Those pictures should be plastered on billboards all over the country together with the £1million reward."

Thomas, who has just published his memoirs Loot: Inside The World Of Stolen Art, worked as an undercover agent for 36 years and assumed several aliases to trick thieves into parting with their stolen treasures.

Art Hostage comments:

Under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime legislation, it is an offence to pay a reward, monetary or other wise, unless there is a written authorisation, given to the payer of the reward, as well as a copy to the receiver of the reward, from Law Enforcement.

To pay a reward without the express permission of Law Enforcement breaks the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act and will lead to the prosecution of those paying the reward as well as those who receive the reward.

Anyone thinking they can secretly pay a reward and make a recovery is aware that they run the risk of breaking the law without the elusive "Comfort Letter" from Police/Law Enforcement.

What it will take to obtain the Police/Law Enforcement "Comfort Letter" is the $64,000 dollar question???

Vernon Rapley, Head of the ever decreasing Scotland Yard Art and Antiques Unit, is adamant that;

"if the Madonna is recovered without arrests, anonymously, and done in a clandestine manner, I will only authorise a reward 0f £50 pounds, and arrest anyone involved in breaking the 2002 Proceeds of crime Act"

So, there we are folks, a legal minefield that will explode in your face if any recovery is done without the "Comfort Letter"



April 18, 2007 -- ANNE Bass - the Manhattan socialite ex-wife of billionaire investor Sid Bass - and her longtime artist boyfriend, Julian Lethbridge, were the victims of a terrifying home invasion at her sprawling country estate in Connecticut this week.

In what the state cops are calling one of the most jarring crimes to hit ultrarich Litchfield County in years, three armed thugs drove onto the 1,000-acre Bass compound in Kent on Monday morning. They strong-armed their way into the main residence, jumped Bass and Lethbridge, and robbed them and ransacked the house, which was loaded with priceless antiques and artwork.

Then, the Kent Tribune reports, "the victims may have been subject to some kind of injection or forced to ingest a foreign substance" to disable them. The attackers fled in a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Bass and Lethbridge called 911 and "met the paramedics outside, they were not allowed in the house. It was a very strange call," according to Jay Lewin, a Litchfield resident who writes on his Web site that he received an account of an emergency radio transmission after the break-in.

"They were taken to New Milford Hospital where a state decontamination team was set up in the parking lot," Lewin writes. "The M.D. who was called to the hospital allegedly asked that there be no more radio transmissions about the problem." The victims were released a short time later.

State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance told Page Six, "It's a mystery at the moment. This is an exclusive area and I can't remember anything like this ever happening before." He said it hasn't been determined what was stolen from the house. Bass - a generous patron of the ballet who reaped more than $200 million in her divorce 20 years ago - refused to comment yesterday.

Lethbridge, 60, whose new show of abstract art opened last month at the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea, told us, "I prefer not to talk about it."

But the break-in has shaken area residents, who are among the wealthiest in the tristate area and are used to a low crime rate. Among Bass' ultra-wealthy Litchfield County neighbors are Conan O'Brien, Mia Farrow, Henry Kissinger, Diane von Furstenburg and Henry Kravis.

Art Hostage comments:

This case should be watched closely by FBI Agent Robert Wittman.

If it emerges that some high value art has been taken then I hope the FBI Art Crime Team will be bought in to "Nip this in the bud" before there are any more high profile violent thefts involving wealthy middle aged citizens.

Every so often there is a high value art theft from private wealthy individuals and if not stamped on then other follow until authorities really clamp down on the art thieves.

In a world of the Bush "Pre-emption" doctrine, then reacting after the first high value art theft is the natural course of action.

The Old Reactive Doctrine, although attractive for governments, has become the policy of "Yesterday"

Crooks will be crooks will be crooks, making high value art theft from citizens, public buildings, and Museums less attractive will not eradicate crime, it will, however, give comfort, protection, security and continued free access to the worlds most adored art.

In this technological age, crime against the person should, by right, be restricted to cyber and electronic crime, rather than the up close and personal violations of the past.

Mainstream Dis-honesty When Fine Art and Antiques are the Question !!


A married couple and another man were involved in "fencing" an elderly man's stolen antiques through an auction house, a court was told yesterday.Dozens of antiques were stolen in raids on the home of Stephen Proctor in Chumleigh, near Barnstaple, after he developed Alzheimer's disease and went into sheltered accommodation, Gloucester Crown Court was told.

Some of his property found its way to the Cotswold Auction House in Cirencester, thanks to Glynn Chugg, his sister Michaela Poole and her husband Matthew Poole.

At Gloucester Crown Court the Pooles, both 25, of The Paddock, Cirencester, admitted handling stolen goods. Chugg, 30, of Swallowfield, Roundswell, Barnstaple, admitted acquisition and use of or possession of the proceeds of criminal conduct.

Also in the dock was Martin Hoyles, 45, of Evenston Road, Barnstaple, who admitted handling about £200 worth of the stolen property which was found at his home.

Pregnant Mrs Poole was ordered to do 50 hours of unpaid community work, her husband 100 hours, and Hoyles and Chugg 200 hours each.

Simon Burns, prosecuting, told the court the total value of the property involved was £13,018.

"This whole case involves the disposal and sale of stolen antiques from the home of the Proctor family in North Devon. The family estate is in Chumleigh and Mr Stephen Proctor lived there until he was sadly diagnosed with Alzheimer's and had to move out into sheltered accommodation," said Mr Burns.

"His house was then systematically burgled while it was empty from the end of 2004 and through 2005.

"The prosecution cannot lay blame for the burglaries at the door of any of these defendants. But a lot of the property found its way into the Barnstaple area where Chugg and Hoyles come from.

"What then took place was the offloading of those antiques to a suitable outlet which was the Cotswold Auction House in Cirencester. A large quantity of antique furniture and porcelain was sold there. The police investigation revealed that Michaela Poole entered the property into the auctions on five occasions.

"She falsely claimed the antiques to be hers to sell. She declared them to be 'my own unencumbered property'.

"Matthew assisted her and accompanied her to enter items into auctions. In mid-August, Matthew Poole arrived at the auction house with a large box full of property but by this time, the police had tipped them off and they were wise to what was going on.

"A common theme was that the items were of Chinese origin and came from the Proctor family. The family had originally been out in the Far East. One plate, described as Lot 672, a Yangtse dish, was worth £10,000. It is now abroad in Brazil, having been sold on."

Mr Burns said the Crown asserted that the criminal benefits derived from their crimes were: Hoyles £200, the Pooles £6,509 each and Chugg £9,671.

Recorder David Lane duly certified that those were the benefit figures but because none of the defendants had any assets, he ordered that only £100 be confiscated from each of them as proceeds of crime.

Gavin Mannion, for Matthew Poole, a Tesco worker, said he was of good character and a "very devoted" family man with four children and one on the way. The offences, he said, were borne out of naivete and a desire to help his wife.

Tim Evans, for Michaela Poole, said she was of good character and her baby was due in July.

For Hoyles, a mechanic, Giles Nelson said he was only on the fringe of the offending.

Simon Mooney, for Chugg, said: "He has been a fool and his foolishness should be punished. But it is not the sort of offending which requires the imposition of an immediate custodial sentence."

Art Hostage comments:

Seems like this duping of elderly people out of their fine art and antique Heirlooms has become mainstream and is going on unchecked, unless Police stumble across an offence.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Foxes About to Guard the Antiques Hen-House !!

Credit due for this story Exclusively written for
Investigative piece on Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities Unit – by Felix Lowe

“My feelings are quite clear: If there was a hall of fame for bad ideas, this would be a certain entry.” Such is the damning verdict of one high-profile art crime expert on the Metropolitan Police Force’s decision to slash the budget of its Arts and Antiques Unit by 50 per cent.

The London-based ‘Art Squad’, which was established in 1969, patrols the second largest market in cultural objects in the world. Up to £200 million of faked artifacts and pictures are sold in the UK every year, with the capital acting as the centre of this illicit trade. The global industry in looted art is worth an estimated £4 billion a year, and is second only to the arms and drugs industries.

And yet while Italy’s art squad, for example, boasts 250 policemen, London’s counterpart consists of a paltry four officers and three civilians. The forthcoming reduction of the budget of an already cash-strapped unit, and proposed measures to make up the deficit with sponsorship, has led to claims of police privatisation. A further plan to draft in civilian ‘special constables’ has also raised questions of policing on the cheap.

“The unit does a commendable job on very little resources as it is, but the last thing they should be doing is cutting back on their budget,” says Mark Dodgson, chairman of the British Antique Dealers’ Association. “It is wholly inappropriate. If anything, they should be putting more money in. Antique dealers pay taxes for the police, so surely their businesses deserve the right to have a proper policing tailored to their needs?”

At the root of the problem is a question of priorities. In this day and age of terrorism, drug abuse and prevalent street crime, the Government-funded Met sees its duty as putting resources into frontline policing and visible aspects of law and order, as opposed to monitoring the comparatively haughty world of arts and antiques.

As Neil Brodie, of the McDonald Institute of Archaeology, says: “Part of the problem is in accepting that the illegal trade in antiquities is a criminal enterprise. It is no longer a victimless crime, but the majority of the wrongdoing occurs on the other side of the world. Try explaining this to the average British tax payer.”

The annual staffing costs of the squad are a relatively low £300,000 and the Met hopes to achieve 50 per cent of this through private sector sponsorship by April 2008.

A spokesman for the Specialist Crime Unit, which runs the squad, says seeking ‘business arrangements’ from within the art industry is a means of continuing and enhancing police response in lower priority areas. “We hope that sponsorship will not just support the current operational structure but allow for growth.”

This is very much disputed by Dick Ellis, a private art investigator who left the squad in 1999 after 30 years with the Met. Ellis claims that a huge question mark now hangs above the squad and fears that it may even be disbanded. The loss of such an important unit in a city where, in the opening week this February, more than £360 million was spent on art, is potentially far-reaching.

“In my experience there is ample evidence to suggest that art theft is used to fund other areas of criminality,” says Ellis. “By reducing the effectively of the squad they will be providing criminals the opportunity to utilise the London market in an unfettered way. People will be making financial gains and using the money in other criminal areas, such as drugs and terrorism.” That is to say, crimes that are deemed high priority for the police force.

The leading expert in this field is Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, a New York-based district attorney and former US marine who now runs his own art squad in the States. While serving in Iraq, Bogdanos, who has an MA in Classics from Colombia University, began and led the international investigation into the looting of Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad, resulting in the recovery of more than 5,400 antiquities in eight countries.

Just as the Taliban in Afghanistan have learnt to fund their activities through the opium trade, Bogdanos argues that insurgents in Iraq, the cradle of civilisation, have discovered a new source of income: antiquities dug out of the ground from the nation’s 10,000 poorly guarded archaeological sites and sold on the black market.

“For anyone to deny the link between antiquity trafficking and terrorism defies all the evidence,” says Bogdanos, who, during his investigation, discovered hoards of vases, cylinder seals and statuettes alongside weapons and ammunition in underground bunkers.

The truth, he argues, is that many stolen antiquities end up in the homes of wealthy western collectors, despite the wider implications. “The cosy cabal of academics, dealers and collectors who turn a blind eye to the illicit trade is, in effect, supporting the insurgents who are killing our troops in Iraq.”

While Bogdanos agrees that counter terrorism, narcotics, street crime and human trafficking are rightly the four main priorities for police forces around the world, his experience shows that art crime is often intricately linked with the above and should be included on the list, “right after the other four.”

Angry that art crime is under-discussed and viewed as a mere afterthought, Bogdanos says the Met’s decision to slash the squad’s budget and introduce sponsorship “beggars credulity”. “The slippery slope to private financing of the police will make them pure mercenaries,” he stresses. Closer to home, James Ede, head of the Antiquities Dealers’ Association, does not mince his words: “It’s a ludicrous idea. Privatising the police is outrageous.”

These strong accusations of potential privatisation come after Stephen House, the Met’s assistant commissioner, admitted the squad was looking into gaining sponsorship from relevant industries from within the art world. The big auction houses of Bonhams, Sotheby’s and Christie’s are rumoured to be at the top of the pile.

The response to such a predicament is understandably stormy: “Accepting sponsorship money from elements of the trade industry could very well lead to a conflict of interest,” says Ellis; “With private finance, how can you not – N-O-T – descend into the abyss of conflict of interest?” stresses Bogdanos; “Wake up and smell the coffee! There is a huge conflict of interest here,” shouts Michel van Rijn, an art crime informant based in London.

Lord Howarth, the former Labour arts minister, harrumphed on the BBC’s Question Time last week that the idea was “an open invitation to corruption”. The clear issue at stake is how the squad will maintain its independence with outside influence. Simply put by Bogdanos: “If a man serves two masters, who does he answer to?” Which is a pertinent point when one of the masters is meant to be the controller of the one stumping up the cash.

Brodie, whose own archaeological institute in Cambridge has suffered from a drying up of governmental cash, concurs: “It’s madness really. There would certainly be a price to pay. Even if nothing untoward happens, people would expect the worst which would mean the credibility of the squad goes.”

Such a move would risk seeing the squad following the same path as the Art Loss Register, the national database of stolen art, which is part owned by the top auction houses, a fact which elicits many a groan from industry insiders. “If the same thing happens with the squad then London will turn into a paradise for looters,” predicts van Rijn who, a former millionaire smuggler himself, appears to know what he’s talking about.

Any conflict of interest, real or apparent, would be without doubt enormously detrimental to the Met. Ede even goes as far as to joke: “Would you suggest that second-hand car dealers pay for DVLA checks for all stolen cars on the second-hand market? Do we really want a Christie’s Fine Art Squad? Anything could happen through the backdoor, it’s completely outrageous. They will be accused of buying the fuzz.”

Understandably, the Met is quick to refute any claims of foul play. A spokesman for the squad said: “Questioning the police’s independence is a slur on our integrity. We’re not doing anything that’s not prohibited (sic). These business arrangements are keenly supported by the Home Office as part of a public/private sector partnership and has a successful precedent in several other areas of police activity.”

But the Home Office denies any involvement in the budget cut, stressing that the Met has received substantial and sustained increases in funding under this Government and that it was their choice to decide how to use the resources allowed. Without elaborating on the sensitive nature of this particular case, a Home Office spokeswoman added: “Sponsorship can be a useful additional resource for forces.”

Despite this diplomatic stance, many argue, however, that the present Government is not doing enough to tackle art crime. In 2000, a report produced by the Illicit Trade Advisory Panel made for Lord Howarth underlined a set of recommendations for the on-going struggle. Much legislation has since followed, but very few of the recommendations – such as “the need for additional resources” for the art squad – have been implemented.

As the Met continues to cut costs in perceived low priority areas, it seems feasible that the Home Office might exert some pressure, or at least provide guidelines. “On the one hand, the Government warrants legislation, but when it comes to sticking the money up, it’s very different,” says Ede. The implication is that laws will only work if the resources are there; instead, they are being taken away.

So, what future, if any, is there for the Arts and Antiques Unit? One area of the recent shake-up to receive a more balanced opinion is that of the use special constables. Dubbed ArtBEAT, the project involves recruiting figures from the art world, many sponsored by their employers, to utilise their expert skills in the fight against cultural property crime in London. Once trained, the volunteers will work as uniformed officers with full police powers for 200 hours a year. A target of 14 constables trained by April has been set.

Ellis regards the special constables as a poor replacement for serious investigation officers, a “move which will be seen by the art market and heritage community as policing on the cheap”. The Home Office, who openly support such schemes, refutes this – and has surprise support from Bogdanos. Who in their right mind would turn down such expert help? asks the Greek American.

But the only way for ArtBEAT to be a success, he argues, is if it functions alongside a strengthened art squad, and not the present watered-down model. “It’s a good idea, but only in conjunction with, and contributing to, a robust Arts and Antiques Unit.”

Grappling for a solution, Bogdanos is as frank as he is idealistic: “They should just find the money. Not from sponsorship, from Government. This whole story strikes me as so much pap. Ruling a country is about convincing the electorate of the correctness of a particular course of action. I want a Winston Churchill but for arts and antiquities. It belongs on the list.”

Perhaps, in the meantime, sponsorship is the only option – providing the squad remains impartial. “Of course, if Marks & Spencer came in with an offer then it would be very different,” concludes Ellis, with a modicum of airy hope.

Art Hostage comments:

Instead of a diatribe of expletives I have decided to just roll my eyes and leave the room in disgust.