Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An Investigator's View of the DoJ/AP Dust-up

There's trouble a foot in DC for President Obama and Attorney General Holder, or so the the usual assortment of hacks, wannabes and never weres that make up the beltway media would have us believe.

You see, back in 2012, the Associated Press ran a story about the CIA thwarting of an Al Queda plan to bring down a US passenger jet.  In so doing they used information that was classified that they had gotten from a source.  Congress responded by asking Department of Justice to find and stop the leak.

Beltway pundits, politicians and their hangers on got all kinds of butt hurt about the revelation that in the course of the investigation the Department Of Justice obtained the telephone records of reporters for the Associated Press.  Words, like wire tap and bugging, ran rampant throughout social media and blogs all across the internet. 

People immediately called for Eric Holder’s head.  Even people like Charles Pierce whom I admire a great deal dashed off a thousand words on how this was overreach and DoJ was out of control and Holder must go. 

Funny thing happened on the way to storm the castle.  As it turns out Eric Holder recused himself as he had already been question by the FBI about the leak investigation.  It should also come as no surprise to anybody that phone records of the reporters were obtained by subpoena.  This is a very common practice in investigation.

As a child abuse investigator for the last 20 years, I have gathered evidence, including using subpoenas for records.  I emphasize that I am not law enforcement, but I have worked closely with law enforcement and have received much of the same training in regards to collecting evidence and following leads. 

In the press conference today, Attorney General Holder said that the content of the subpoenaed phone calls was not turned over, just the phone numbers, times, dates, etc.

You may ask why they did this with the reporter’s phone information. The answer is very simple.  It’s much easier to go through the phone records of 20 people to find a lead on a government employee, than it is to go through the phone records of over a hundred thousand employees at the Department of Defense or CIA.

I have had similar experiences with phone records, albeit for an entirely different type of case.  I helped a co-worker and police on a case of a teacher who was having sex with a teenaged student.  We combed through 30,000 text messages between the two because there was a concern that there were other victims.  We also looked through emails of the perpetrator looking for clues as to other trysts he may have had. 

That particular case ended well, but it illustrates what I was talking about re: the volume of information we had to go through.  We could have subpoenaed the records of all of the students the teacher had interactions with but it was easier to go through the teacher’s records. 

In the AP case, Congress directed the DoJ to find the leak.  There was really no other way to get a lead on the leak, without going through the phone records of the recipients of the leaked information. In fact the use of the subpoena per DoJ rules was a last resort which explains why the phone records weren't immediately looked at.  In fact the records were requested in April and May of last year, several weeks after Holder was directed by Congress to investigate.

I completely understand the fears of interference with the media and a free press.  In the case of the AP investigation, the Department of Justice is not going after a member of the press for possible prosecution.  They are using readily available and commonly used law enforcement tools to develop leads on the real criminal.  The person who leaked the information could have gotten a CIA asset killed and at very least tipped off our enemies that they had a mole in their operation.  

If the forth estate plans on continuing to abet criminal activity, they better damn well be ready to be party to the criminal investigation. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


By now most everyone has at least a passing understanding of who Charles Ramsey is.  If the name doesn't ring a bell, he was the neighbor who helped rescue three women in Cleveland who had been held captive for a decade.

Upon hearing screaming from his neighbor's house, he went to the door and a woman asked him to help her. He told reporters that he at first thought she was a victim of domestic violence.  He quickly became an internet meme because of his awesome interview with local TV.

The aftermath of all this has been rather strange to observe.  Some people are worried that Ramsey is being treated like the "funny black neighbor".  Not understanding that we can laugh a funny guy without mocking him. I'd love to talk to him. He's a good story teller, and a character.

Today it was revealed by the omnipresent media that seems to find the bad side of everybody, that Mr. Ramsey has a record including an assault on a woman in his past.  National media especially seem to love to find the dirt to tarnish a heroic act.

As many of you know, I work for DCFS in Illinois. In the last 20 years I have interviewed thousands of people a lot like Mr. Ramsey.  People who may have had a bad past, or made bad choices but who have grown from those experiences to become better people and better parents.

It may be bone headed optimism, but the fact that Mr. Ramsey initially thought the victim may have been a DV victim, could be because he learned from his past.  Most men who are convicted of Domestic Battery have to take classes in anger management and other counseling to help them recognize their own triggers.  Is it so far off base to think that Mr. Ramsey internalized what he learned and put it to good use when needed?

It's easy to be a cynic, but people can change.  I've seen it countless  times. While there are really bad people in the world who will never change (mostly White Sox fans but I digress), the capacity for positive change exists in us all.

I recognize that Mr. Ramsey has a checkered past, and I've certainly called out abusers in this blog before, but for now, he did a heroic thing.  On top of his heroism, when Anderson Cooper asked about the reward money, he said give it those women, give it to that little girl who was out here crying last night.

Maybe karma isn't always a bitch.