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Thursday
May302013

FBI 'Bandits' Executed Friend of Boston Suspect, Father Claims

Orange County Sheriff's Office(MOSCOW) -- The father of a Chechen man who was friends with one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers claims his son was shot “execution style” by the FBI last week.

“I want justice and an investigation in accordance with American laws to punish those who are guilty,” Abdul-Baki Todashev said. “They were not FBI employees, but bandits.”

The deceased man, 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev, was shot and killed by FBI investigators who were interrogating him about whether he had any role in, or had any advance knowledge of, last month’s Boston Marathon bombing. They also questioned him about his role in an unsolved triple murder in 2011. Todashev was a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects in the Boston attack.

Todashev was shot seven times, including once to the head, according to his father. He displayed graphic photos, taken by friends who claimed the body from an Orlando-area morgue, as evidence. The authenticity of the photos could not be verified, but they show several bullet holes in the body, including one to the head.

“To make sure that he was dead,” the father said, speaking in Russian.

At a press conference in Moscow, where he is applying for a visa to travel to the United States to collect the body, Abdul-Baki Todashev questioned why his son had been shot so many times even though he was said to be unarmed.

“They could have simply grabbed my son or, in the worst case, they could have wounded him,” he said, noting that the FBI’s story has been evolving.

“They simply killed him as they wanted and my opinion is that they wanted to get rid of him to shut him up,” he added.

Initially, the FBI said that the agents felt endangered after Todashev attacked them with a knife and they fired on him in self defense. This week, however, officials said he lunged, possibly for one of the agent’s guns or a sword that was in the room, but was unarmed when he was killed. The press conference was scheduled before the latest FBI revelation.

Abdul-Baki Todashev said his son was killed during his third interrogation by law enforcement. During the first, he said, the younger Todashev was questioned about his role and knowledge of the Boston bombing. During the second interrogation, they began to ask him about the triple murder in Waltham, Mass., he said. Officials claim Todashev was in the process of confessing to the murders when he threatened the agents.

The father denied his son was involved in the Boston bombing, saying Todashev only knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev because they boxed at the same gym in Boston.

“They were just acquaintances, not close friends,” the father said. He denied his son had any ties to militants or extreme religious views.

The father cast doubt on the FBI’s claims that his son was about to confess to a role in the triple murder, noting that his son had received a green card just a few months ago and would not have been able to do so if there was any suspicion about him.

“I know him so well. I know what he can do and what he can’t,” the father said.

He questioned why a friend, who was also interviewed that night, was asked to leave when they began to interview Todashev. He also wondered why no video or audio evidence has been made public to corroborate the FBI’s version of events.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov022012

FBI Granted Access to Benghazi Suspect in Tunisia

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- FBI agents investigating the Benghazi attack have been granted access a suspect who is currently being held in Tunisia. Ali Harzi was initially detained in Turkey after he posted information on a social media site about his involvement in the attack. Harzi was then extradited to his home country of Tunisia where he was being held in a jail. The FBI had been trying to gain access to him since last month.
 
After working through the diplomatic process the FBI will finally be able to interview him in the coming days.
 
Final arrangements are being made with the FBI and Tunisian authorities about how the interrogation will take place. Tunisian security officials are likely to be present during the questioning by the American agents.
 
U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., have been briefed on the issue from the FBI.
 
In a press release the Senators issued the following statement:
 
“We are very pleased the Tunisian government is working with American investigators to allow in person access to Ali Ani al Harzi.  Under this arrangement the interviews will be under Tunisian supervision and consistent with their sovereignty and meets the needs of our investigative team.
 
Allowing American investigators in person access will make the interview more meaningful and is a welcome breakthrough in our efforts  to find the perpetrators of the Benghazi Consulate attacks.  This tight collaboration between our countries shows the growing strength of our partnership.
 
It is unfortunate it has taken this long to get an in-person interview as time is of the essence in cases like this.  We hope our interview of Ali Ani al Harzi will bear fruit and we can bring to justice those responsible for killing Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans.
 
Tunisia is where the Arab Spring began and these latest events reaffirm the growing alliance between our two countries.  We look forward to working with the Tunisian government to strengthen the ties between our two countries.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct042012

FBI Investigators Visit US Consulate Attack Site in Benghazi

STR/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. official confirms that an FBI team, under the protection of a U.S. military unit, visited Benghazi for the first time since the Sept. 11 attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
 
At a briefing Thursday, Pentagon spokesperson George Little confirmed that the U.S. military's special operations forces transported the team into Benghazi Thursday to visit the damaged U.S. consulate.  Though Little was reluctant to provide specifics, saying he didn’t want to tip off “the wrong people" about the mission, he did say the military unit provided logistical and security support.  He later added that the U.S. military had provided an “airlift” for the visit that that lasted “a number of hours.”

The FBI team surveyed the damage at the consulate building and gathered evidence, Libyan security officials said, according to Voice of America.  Libyan military vehicles sealed off the road leading to the consulate compound to allow for the visit, which had to be approved by the Libyan government.

Asked why it took so long for investigators to visit the attack site, Little said that too much shouldn’t be read into any time delays because the U.S. has been actively investigating the events surrounding the attack.   

"We have not been sitting around waiting, you know, for information to come to us," he said about the investigation.

Little said investigators have been "actively chasing leads in various ways."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug212012

FBI Won't Pursue Charges Against Lawmakers Who Romped in Sea of Galilee

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There won't be any federal probe into possible criminal wrongdoing following reports that members of a GOP delegation led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor went a little crazy during a trip to Israel last year.

Cantor, a Virginia lawmaker, was not among those lawmakers and their aides who apparently had a little too much to drink one evening and went swimming in the Sea of Galilee, with one congressman, Kevin Yoder, also going skinny-dipping.

Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, chastised his fellow lawmakers after learning what happened and Yoder made an official apology.

It was also learned that the FBI questioned congressional staff about "who went into the water that night, and whether there was any impropriety."  A decision was then reached not to pursue the matter further.

Besides Cantor and Yoder, those on the trip to Israel included Reps. Michael Grimm of New York, Steve Southerland of Florida, Tom Reed of New York, Ben Quayle of Arizona and Jeff Denham of California.

Their junket was paid for by the American Israel Educational Foundation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
May062012

Yemeni's "Most Wanted Terrorist" Killed in Airstrike 

FBI(NEW YORK) -- The Yemeni embassy to the United States announced on Sunday that a senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader, listed by the FBI as one of Yemen's "Most Wanted Terrorists," has been killed in an airstrike.

Fahd Mohammed Ahmed alQuso was indicted in the Southern District of New York for his role in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden that killed 17 U.S. sailors. AlQuso, who was a leading  figure in the terrorist organization alQaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in an airstrike in Rafth, Shabwa, according to the Yemeni Embassy in Washington.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar062012

FBI: $1 Million Reward for Ex-Agent Who Vanished in Iran

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI is offering a $1 million reward for information leading to the safe return of former agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran on a business trip five years ago this week and is thought to be held hostage there.

Levinson's wife of 37 years, Christine Levinson, and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced the reward at a Washington press conference Tuesday. The FBI also said it would put up billboards with pictures of Levinson in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere in the region.

"Today we stand together to reaffirm our commitment to Bob Levinson," said Mueller. "We in the FBI will continue to do all that we can to ensure Bob's safe return, his safe return to Christine and their family, his safe return to the FBI family, and to the country that he has served so well and so diligently for over 28 years."

Christine Levinson said "there are no words to describe the nightmare that my family and I have been living every day. I never imagined that we would still be waiting for Bob to come home five years later."

Robert Levinson, a former FBI Special Agent, vanished from Kish Island, Iran, on March 9, 2007, and was thought to be dead until a "proof-of-life" video surfaced in late 2011, the first sign since his disappearance that he was still alive. In the video, posted by his family on their website, a gaunt Levinson addresses "my beautiful, my loving, my loyal wife Christine," says he is being held hostage, and warns that his diabetes medication is running out.

"I am not in very good health," says Levinson.

He does not name his captors, but pleads for the United States to deal with them.

"I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years," he says, wearing a thin shirt and sitting on the floor.

Levinson reportedly visited the resort island as a private investigator on behalf of a documentary producer. He had planned to meet with an American fugitive accused of murdering a former Iranian official and was last seen checking into a hotel arranged for the meeting. U.S. officials reported that he was not acting in any way as part of the U.S. government or its agencies.

U.S. officials presumed Mr. Levinson dead prior to the hostage video, which was sent anonymously to his family's Pakistan and Afghanistan e-mail accounts. Other than the video, the captors have made no effort to contact either the family or U.S. officials.

Iran has repeatedly denied any knowledge of his whereabouts or the identity of his captors. However the U.S. State Department, which has continued pressing Iran for relevant information, believes Iranian officials know more than they have shared. U.S. officials also think Levinson may be held in the border region of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The family posted on their website Thursday, imploring the public to "generate as much press coverage around the five year anniversary of the kidnapping" as possible. They ask individuals to utilize Facebook to spread the message of their case.

Mr. Levinson retired from the FBI ten years before his disappearance to work for a private investigation firm. He is the father of seven children.

"We will never give up hope," says a statement on the family's website, "and every day we pray that today will be the day that our father will be released and allowed to return to the loving arms of his family."

"We often speak of the FBI family, and though he is retired from the FBI, Bob remains a member of the FBI family to this day," said Mueller. "It is our privilege to stand with the Levinson family for as long as it takes to bring Bob home."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan312012

FBI Raises Concerns About Cyber Attacks from China and Russia

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Threats from cyber-espionage, computer crime, and attacks on critical infrastructure will surpass terrorism as the number-one threat facing the United States, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified Tuesday.

Mueller and National Intelligence Director James Clapper, addressing the annual Worldwide Threat hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, cited their concerns about cyber-security and noted that China and Russia run robust intrusion operations against key U.S. industries and the government.

“I do not think today it is necessarily [the] number-one threat, but it will be tomorrow,” Mueller said. “Counterterrorism — stopping terrorist attacks — with the FBI is the present number-one priority. But down the road, the cyberthreat, which cuts across all [FBI] programs, will be the number-one threat to the country.”

A report released in November by the National Counterintelligence Executive singled out Russia and China for their aggressive efforts to steal American intellectual property, trade secrets and national security information.

“The cyberthreat is one of the most challenging ones we face,” Clapper said. “Among state actors, we’re particularly concerned about entities within China and Russia conducting intrusions into U.S. computer networks and stealing U.S. data.  And the growing role that non-state actors are playing in cyberspace is a great example of the easy access to potentially disruptive and even lethal technology and know-how by such groups.”

“We foresee a cyber-environment in which emerging technologies are developed and implemented before security responses can be put in place,” Clapper said. U.S. officials estimate that there are 60,000 new malicious computer programs identified each day.

Last week the computer security firm Symantec released a report on a Trojan horse program dubbed “Sykipot,” which researchers say was traced to computer servers in China and was allegedly targeting firms in the defense industry.

“The Sykipot attackers have a long running history of attacks against multiple industries. Based on these insights, the attackers are familiar with the Chinese language and are using computer resources in China. They are clearly a group of attackers who are constantly modifying their creation to utilize new vulnerabilities and to evade security products and we expect that they will continue their attacks in the future,” Symantec noted in a blog posting.

In the next month, Congress is expected to take up debate about pending cyber-security legislation that could possibly give the Department of Homeland Security new authorities to protect critical computer networks. Senators on the Hill Tuesday questioned the panel about why they have not done more to move forward on the issue.

“I can tell you that we are exceptionally concerned about that threat,” Mueller said, citing the establishment of the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force that brings together the 18 intelligence agencies to work on various cyber threats.

“In the same way we changed to address terrorism, we have to change to address cybercrime.” Mueller said. “And so we have to build up the collective addressing of that threat in the same way that we did so and broke down the walls in the wake of September 11th .”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan112012

FBI Investigating US-China Commission Data Breach

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI is investigating claims made by an Indian computer-hacking group that India’s intelligence services intercepted the communications of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The documents, posted on the Internet about a month ago and alleged to be from the Indian government’s Directorate General of Military Intelligence, include about 10 emails from the congressionally mandated commission from September and October 2011. The commission reports to Congress annually on national security, trade and economic issue with China.

The commission released their annual report to Congress in November 2011 this year. One federal law enforcement official indicated that the Indian government may have been snooping for early details on the assessments of the commission if the documents are genuine.

While the emails do appear to be genuine, the document has not been authenticated. Emails and phone calls made to the Indian embassy in Washington were not returned on Wednesday.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the investigation.

The documents include an email received by Michael Danis, the commission’s executive director, concerning General Electric’s business and joint ventures in China.

“As discussed yesterday, defense and aviation officials have identified that China’s two critical technology gaps in the aerospace industry are avionics and engine technology. This would appear to indicate that GE is helping them on both counts,” the email reads.

“Look at the Taiwan hearing, yesterday both the Chair and Ranking were adamant about the F-16c/d sale. I think we finally need/should support the sale,” an Oct. 4, 2011 email allegedly sent from commission member Daniel Blumenthal to Denis notes about the possible sale of F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan.

“We are aware of these reports and have contacted the relevant authorities. We are unable to make further comments at this time,” Jonathan Weston, a spokesman for the commission, wrote in an email.

The documents posted on the Internet were allegedly obtained by a group called the Lords of Dharamraja, which has also made claims that they compromised the source code on Symantec’s popular Norton antivirus software.

The document that is allegedly from the Indian intelligence service claims that the emails were obtained by using backdoors from mobile device manufacturers Apple, Research in Motion and Nokia. In the United States the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act mandates that the FBI and police must have “backdoor” access to phone and internet communications with a lawful court order. The Bureau has been pushing for expanded surveillance powers with new technology such as Skype and Twitter in what they have termed their “Going Dark” program.

The inquiry into the data breach at the commission follows the disclosure last month that China had infiltrated the U.S. Chamber of Commerce computer system targeting the work by the Chamber’s Asia policy analysts.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec092011

Kidnapped Former FBI Agent Seen In New 'Proof of Life' Video

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new "proof of life" video emerged Friday of former FBI agent Robert Levinson who disappeared in Iran in 2007, the first substantial piece of public evidence that he is alive and being held as a captive by an unknown group.

In the video, posted by his family on their website, Levinson appears gaunt, addresses "my beautiful, my loving, my loyal wife Christine," and says his diabetes medication is running out.

"I am not in very good health," says Levinson.

He does not name his captors but pleads for the United States to deal with them.

"I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years," he said, wearing a thin shirt and sitting on the floor in front of a rock facing.

"Please help me get home. Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something. Please help me," Levinson said on the tape, his voice breaking.

Christine Levinson told ABC News that her husband's appearance on the tape made her sad. "He has probably lost 75 pounds," she said, "and the shirt he was wearing is actually the shirt he wore when he disappeared. But I was happy at the same time because it was Bob."

Levinson has seven children and two grandchildren, and this December will mark his fifth holiday season without his family.

"The frustration is that every day passes," said Christine Levinson, "and he's still not home with us, and I don't know how to get him home."

American officials thought Levinson was dead until the hostage video was sent to his wife via e-mail accounts in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The family reportedly received the tape last November but is making it public only now.

"It could be that he was captured without authorization and now the group that's holding him is kind of embarrassed by it but they haven't figured out a way yet to let it go," said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official and now an ABC News consultant.

In a statement on the family website, Levinson's wife, Christine, and son, David, seek to send a message to the group holding the former FBI agent.

"We tried to contact you but you never responded," Levinson's son said.

"No one can help us but you," he said.

Levinson disappeared in March 2007 on the Iranian island of Kish where he had gone as part of his work as a private investigator.

U.S. officials say Levinson was not operating in any way on behalf of the U.S. government or any of its agencies at the time of his disappearance.

Iran has repeatedly denied any knowledge of what happened to Levinson, despite the evidence he was last seen in Iran.

U.S. diplomats have repeatedly pressed Iranian officials about Levinson with little success.

A State Department spokeswoman said Friday it was the family's idea to release the tape, and that she was "hopeful" that the publicity would bring more leads.

"We have been sharing relevant information that we have about his case with many governments to see what we can do," said Victoria Nuland.

However, the State Department currently has no further leads on Levinson's whereabouts.

"We're not in a position to confirm even where he is," Nuland said.

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Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov012011

How the FBI Busted Anna Chapman and the Russian Spy Ring

Federal Bureau of Investigation/ABC(WASHINGTON) -- Anna Chapman is a television star and lingerie model back in Moscow now, but before she and other Russian spies were caught by the FBI last year, they came dangerously close to accomplishing a portion of their undercover mission in the United States.

“This group was well on their way to penetrating foreign policy circles.  They had befriended a friend of a sitting Cabinet official,” FBI Counter Intelligence Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi said. “They wanted to get their hands on the most sensitive data they could get their hands on, but we took this thing down before classified information changed hands.”

In a wide-ranging interview with ABC News, Figliuzzi said the red-headed Chapman was much more than a seductive “femme fatale.”

“This is a highly-trained intelligence officer — Chapman is a new breed of illegal operative,” Figliuzzi said, describing her as “tech savvy” and capable of spying in plain sight. Chapman and her comrades were “the cream of the crop, handpicked out of the Russian intelligence academy, because of their fluency in languages, and their ability to acclimate into another society,” he said.

FBI hidden camera surveillance videos of the spies’ operations give a fascinating look into Russian spy tradecraft as employed by Chapman and the other Russian agents.   The videos show, among other things, the Russian infiltrators hiding messages under bridges, secretly trading information, money and contact information via “brush passes,” and digging for buried payoff money in the woods.

The videos were released by the FBI Monday in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by ABC and other news organizations.  While Chapman and her fellow spies seemed to live routine, middle-class lives, the videos reveal both traditional and hi-tech spy techniques, including Chapman sending encrypted messages to her handler with a specially equipped laptop.  In one of the FBI surveillance tapes, Chapman is in a department store, transmitting messages to her contact standing outside the store.

“We were able to capture wirelessly the communications between her and her handler,” Figliuzzi said.  “There were six locations throughout New York” that Chapman used, he said.  “She transmits and receives messages from the official who is in close proximity but not anywhere near visibly close to her...she is transmitting encrypted code that the FBI was able to break.”

Because they broke the code, the FBI was able to place an informant into the spy ring.  At one point, Chapman even hands her laptop over to the informant so he can fix some technical problems she was having.  She didn’t know, of course, she was having trouble with her laptop because of measures taken by the FBI.  The FBI dubbed the operation that caught Chapman and her colleagues “Ghost Stories,” because many of the Russian spies assumed the stolen identities of dead Americans.

“We were dealing with the most sophisticated cadre the Russians could put here,” Figliuzzi said.

All of its members spoke fluent English, many had attended U.S. colleges or graduate schools, and some married each other, had children, and assumed American middle-class lives, all the while searching out top-level contacts in U.S. policy-making.

“What we have learned here is the absolute resolve of a foreign intelligence service to penetrate U.S. foreign policy circles,” Figliuzzi said, adding that the Russians were in it for “the long haul — they were patient enough to wait decades to achieve their objective.”

The Cold War, he added, did not mean the end to the “Spy vs. Spy” mentality between the United States and Russia.

“The public needs to know this threat continues,” Figliuzzi said.  “Spying has been with us since the Old Testament; spying is with us now.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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