Monday, June 24, 2013
Sunday, June 23, 2013
The US wanted him extradited from Hong Kong but the government said Washington had failed to meet its requirements.
Mr Snowden, an intelligence contractor, fled to Hong Kong in May after revealing extensive internet and phone surveillance by US intelligence.
The Aeroflot Airbus, flight SU213, landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport at 17:10 local time (13:10 GMT).
Russian media say he was picked up at the airport by either a Venezuelan or Ecuadorean embassy car.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The verdict, coming after his first trial ended last year with the jury deadlocked on most charges, was a bitter defeat for Blagojevich, who spent 2 1/2 years professing his innocence on reality TV shows and later on the witness stand. His defense team insisted that hours of FBI wiretap recordings were just the ramblings of a politician who liked to think out loud.
Blagojevich becomes the second straight Illinois governor convicted of corruption. His predecessor, George Ryan, is now serving 6 1/2 years in federal prison.
When sentenced later this year, Blagojevich is virtually certain to get a significant prison term that experts said could be 10 to 15 years.
After hearing the verdict, Blagojevich turned to defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky and asked "What happened?" His wife, Patti, slumped against her brother, then rushed into her husband's arms.
Before the decision was read, the couple looked flushed, and the former governor blew his wife a kiss across the courtroom, then stood expressionless, with his hands clasped tightly.
The verdict capped a long-running spectacle in which Blagojevich became famous for blurting on a recorded phone call that his ability to appoint Obama's successor to the Senate was "f---ing golden" and that he wouldn't let it go "for f---ing nothing."
The 54-year-old Democrat, who has been free on bond since shortly after his arrest, spoke only briefly with reporters as he left the courthouse, saying he was disappointed and stunned by the verdict.
"Well, among the many lessons I've learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less, so I'm going to keep my remarks kind of short," Blagojevich said, adding that the couple wanted "to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them and then try to sort things out." His two daughters are 8 and 14.
The case exploded into scandal when Blagojevich was awakened by federal agents on Dec. 9, 2008, at his Chicago home and was led away in handcuffs. Federal prosecutors had been investigating his administration for years, and some of his closest cronies had already been convicted.
Blagojevich was swiftly impeached and removed from office.
The verdict provided affirmation to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, one of the nation's most prominent prosecutors, who, after the governor's arrest, had condemned Blagojevich's dealings as a "political corruption crime spree."
On Monday, he said the key question for the jury was whether to accept the defense suggestion that Blagojevich's activities amounted to "the kind of political wheeling and dealing that is common in Illinois and around the country."
"That," said Fitzgerald, his voice rising, "couldn't be any further from the truth. ... Selling a Senate seat, shaking down a children's hospital and squeezing a person to give money before you sign a bill that benefits them is not a gray area. It's a crime."
Fitzgerald also addressed a question that has hung over the case ever since Blagojevich was arrested: Why did authorities not wait until the governor actually made a deal for the Senate seat? Doing so might have helped ensnare other conspirators.
A U.S. Senate seat "should not be put up for sale. You should not let the sale happen. ... Our job is to try to prevent crime, not just prosecute crime," he said.
Fitzgerald pledged to retry the governor after the first jury failed to reach a decision on all but the least serious of 24 charges against him.
On Monday, the jury voted to convict on 17 of 20 counts after deliberating nine days. Blagojevich also faces up to five additional years in prison for his previous conviction of lying to the FBI.
Blagojevich was acquitted of soliciting bribes in the alleged shakedown of a road-building executive. The jury deadlocked on two charges of attempted extortion related to that executive and funding for a school.
Judge James Zagel has barred Blagojevich from traveling outside the area without permission. A status hearing to discuss sentencing was set for Aug. 1.
The charges carry a possible sentence up to 300 years in prison, but federal guidelines mean he will serve only a fraction of that.
Judges have enormous discretion in sentencing and can factor in a host of variables, including whether a defendant took the stand and lied. Prosecutors have said that Blagojevich did just that.
Two legal experts speculated that Blagojevich would probably receive around 10 years in prison, with little chance that he would get more than 15.
Former prosecutor Jeff Cramer estimated that Blagojevich would get between six and 12 years. Another former assistant U.S. attorney, Phil Turner, guessed closer to six years.
All 12 jurors – 11 women and one man – spoke to reporters after the verdict, identifying themselves only by juror numbers. Their full names were to be released Tuesday.
Jurors said the evidence that Blagojevich tried to secure a high-paying, high-powered position in exchange for the appointment of Obama's successor in the Senate was the clearest in the case.
"There was so much more evidence to go on," said Juror No. 140. Jury members said they listened and re-listened to recordings of Blagojevich's phone conversations with aides. They also acknowledged finding the former governor likable.
"He was personable," Juror No. 103 said. "It made it hard to separate what we actively had to do as jurors."
Still, Juror No. 140 said she found Blagojevich's testimony over seven days at times "manipulative."
"Our verdict shows that we didn't believe it," she said.
The quiet Blagojevich who left the courthouse Monday was a sharp contrast with the combative politician who emerged after his arrest. Back then, he called federal prosecutors "cowards and liars" and challenged Fitzgerald to face him in court if he was "man enough."
Over the months that followed, he engaged in what many saw as embarrassing indignities for a former governor. He sent his wife to the jungle for a reality television show, "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here," where she had to eat a tarantula. He later showed his own ineptitude at simple office skills before being fired on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice."
For the second trial, prosecutors streamlined their case, and attorneys for the former governor put on a defense – highlighted by a chatty Blagojevich taking the witness stand for seven days to portray himself as a big talker but not a criminal.
Richard Kling, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law who watched much of the trial, said the defense had no choice but to put Blagojevich on the stand, even though doing so was risky.
"The problem was with some of his explanations," Kling said. "It reminded me of a little kid who gets his hand caught in a cookie jar. He says, `Mommy I wasn't taking the cookies. I was just trying to protect them and to count them.'"
Robert Grant, head of the FBI's Chicago office, said the agency's eavesdropping helped seal the verdict.
"A famous artist once said that lady justice is blind, but she has very sophisticated listening devices, and that was certainly the case in this matter," Grant said.
Blagojevich seemed to believe he could talk his way out of trouble from the witness stand. He sought to counteract the blunt, greedy man he appeared to be on FBI wiretaps and apologized to jurors for the four-letter words that peppered the recordings.
He said the wiretaps merely displayed his approach to decision-making: to invite a whirlwind of ideas – "good ones, bad ones, stupid ones" – then toss the ill-conceived ones out.
When a prosecutor read wiretap transcripts where Blagojevich seems to speak clearly of trading the Senate seat for a job, Blagojevich told jurors, "I see what I say here, but that's not what I meant."
Lead prosecutor Reid Schar started his questioning of Blagojevich with a quick verbal punch: "Mr. Blagojevich, you are a convicted liar, correct?"
After the judge overruled a flurry of defense objections, Blagojevich eventually answered: "Yes."
Friday, June 24, 2011
The cellphone of Osama bin Laden’s trusted courier, which was recovered in the raid that killed both men in Pakistan last month, contained contacts to a militant group that is a longtime asset of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, senior American officials who have been briefed on the findings say.
The discovery indicates that Bin Laden used the group, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, as part of his support network inside the country, the officials and others said. But it also raised tantalizing questions about whether the group and others like it helped shelter and support Bin Laden on behalf of Pakistan’s spy agency, given that it had mentored Harakat and allowed it to operate in Pakistan for at least 20 years, the officials and analysts said.
In tracing the calls on the cellphone, American analysts have determined that Harakat commanders had called Pakistani intelligence officials, the senior American officials said. One said they had met. The officials added that the contacts were not necessarily about Bin Laden and his protection and that there was no “smoking gun” showing that Pakistan’s spy agency had protected Bin Laden.
But the cellphone numbers provide one of the most intriguing leads yet in the hunt for the answer to an urgent and vexing question for Washington: How was it that Bin Laden was able to live comfortably for years in Abbottabad, a town dominated by the Pakistani military and only a three-hour drive from Islamabad, the capital?
“It’s a serious lead,” said one American official, who has been briefed in broad terms on the cellphone analysis. “It’s an avenue we’re investigating.”
The revelation also provides a potentially critical piece of the puzzle about Bin Laden’s secret odyssey after he slipped away from American forces in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan nearly 10 years ago. It may help answer how and why Bin Laden or his protectors chose Abbottabad, where he was killed in a raid by a Navy Seals team on May 2.
Harakat has especially deep roots in the area around Abbottabad, and the network provided by the group would have enhanced Bin Laden’s ability to live and function in Pakistan, analysts familiar with the group said. Its leaders have strong ties with both Al Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence, and they can roam widely because they are Pakistanis, something the foreigners who make up Al Qaeda’s ranks cannot do.
Even today, the group’s leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, long one of Bin Laden’s closest Pakistani associates, lives unbothered by Pakistani authorities on the outskirts of Islamabad.
The senior American officials did not name the commanders whose numbers were in the courier’s cellphone but said that the militants were in South Waziristan, where Al Qaeda and other groups had been based for years. Harakat’s network would have allowed Bin Laden to pass on instructions to Qaeda members there and in other parts of Pakistan’s tribal areas, to deliver messages and money or even to take care of personnel matters, analysts and officials said.
Wielding a Militant Tool
Harakat is one of a host of militant groups set up in the 1980s and early ’90s with the approval and assistance of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, to fight as proxies in Afghanistan, initially against the Soviets, or against India in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Like many groups, it has splintered and renamed itself over the years, and because of their overlapping nature, other groups could have been involved in supporting Bin Laden, too, officials and analysts said. But Harakat, they said, has been a favored tool of the ISI.
Harakat “is one of the oldest and closest allies of Al Qaeda, and they are very, very close to the ISI,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and the author of “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad.”
“The question of ISI and Pakistani Army complicity in Bin Laden’s hide-out now hangs like a dark cloud over the entire relationship” between Pakistan and the United States, Mr. Riedel added.
Indeed, suspicions abound that the ISI or parts of it sought to hide Bin Laden, perhaps to keep him as an eventual bargaining chip, or to ensure that billions of dollars in American military aid would flow to Pakistan as long as Bin Laden was alive.
Both the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Representative C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, said this month that they believed that some members of the ISI or the Pakistani Army, either retired or on active duty, were involved in harboring Bin Laden.
Bin Laden himself had a long history with the ISI, dating to the mujahedeen insurgency that the Americans and Pakistanis supported against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
A magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook a large swath of Alaska's Aleutian Islands on Thursday evening, sending residents of small coastal towns to higher ground as officials issued a tsunami warning in the temblor's wake.
The quake was centered about 122 miles east of Atka, about 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage. It was recorded at a depth of 26 miles, the Alaska Earthquake Information Center said.
The quake was felt through the central Aleutians and as far east as Dutch Harbor and Unalaska, but no damage was reported, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman with the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
"It was shaking, it was just a little rumbly" and lasted about 20 seconds, said Atka resident Rodney Jones.
The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center posted a tsunami warning for some coastal areas of Alaska, but canceled the warning about an hour after the quake. The warning covered an area from 80 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor to about 125 miles west of Adak.
Jones said it appeared all of the town's 61 residents took to higher ground when they heard the tsunami warning, which he heard issued over CB radio. The townspeople gathered on a high hill for about an hour, near the city's new water tank.
During their wait for the all-clear signal, he said a priest with the town's Russian Orthodox Church recited prayers.
In Dutch Harbor, longshoreman Jim Paulin said warning sirens caused also caused hundreds of people to begin climbing up a nearby hill.
"Right now there's hundreds of people up on the hilltop," he told The Associated Press before the all-clear was given. "I can look across the bay and see people on another hilltop."
After the tsunami warning was canceled, he said everybody was "calm. It seems like everybody's kind of enjoying it. It's good weather."
Paulin said no one seemed panicked because the city has been evacuated in the past. But, he said, "It's better to be safe than sorry."