“Lawmakers Charged in Plot to Buy Spot on Mayoral Ballot”

April 2, 2013

The New York Times on April 2, 2013 released the following:

“By WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM and MARC SANTORA

A top New York State lawmaker was arrested early Tuesday morning for what federal prosecutors said was his central role in a brazen series of bribery and corruption schemes, including an attempt to buy a spot on the ballot in this year’s race for New York City mayor.

In outlining the charges against the lawmaker, State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, as well as five other politicians and Republican Party leaders, United States Attorney Preet Bharara said the case was but the latest evidence that corruption in New York was “pervasive.”

“Every New Yorker should be disheartened and dismayed by the sad state of affairs in this great state,” Mr. Bharara said.

Mr. Smith, a Queens Democrat who rose to become the first black president of the State Senate, was accused of conspiring with City Councilman Daniel J. Halloran III, a Queens Republican, to get his name on the ballot for mayor as a Republican, which would require approval of a majority of the party’s leadership in the city.

The others arrested were Joseph J. Savino, the Bronx G.O.P. chairman; Vincent Tabone, vice chairman of the Queens Republican Party; and Noramie F. Jasmin, the mayor of the Rockland County village of Spring Valley, and her deputy, Joseph A. Desmaret, according to a criminal complaint.

The complaint details a scheme hatched in a series of clandestine meetings in hotels, with cash passing hands in parked cars and hushed conversations in a restaurant on Valentine’s Day and even in Mr. Smith’s office in Albany. The meetings, recorded by an undercover agent or a cooperating witness, were primarily among Mr. Smith, the undercover agent and the witness, and Mr. Halloran and the agent and the witness. The scheme involving the race was one of three bribery schemes charged in the case.

Mr. Bharara, at a news conference, pointed to Mr. Halloran’s own words in a recorded conversation with the confidential witness as evidence of how “money greases the wheel.”

“That’s politics, that’s politics,” Mr. Halloran is quoted in the complaint as saying. “Not about whether or will, it’s about how much, and that’s our politicians in New York, they’re all like that. And they get like that because of the drive that the money does for everything else.”

The charges immediately reverberated at City Hall and in Albany, threatening to upset the Republican primary for mayor of New York and the leadership coalition that governs the State Senate.

“It is very, very troubling,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said of the charges. “We have zero tolerance for any violation of the public integrity and the public trust, so they’re very serious.”

At the Capitol, Mr. Smith is a key member of an independent faction of Democrats who joined forces with Republicans to seize control of the Senate this year. Although that coalition has enough members to retain control without him, the charges against him are sure to taint the coalition as well as the rest of the Senate Democrats, who have been struggling to distance themselves from years of corruption.

Jeffrey D. Klein, a Democrat and a one of the two leaders of the State Senate, said Mr. Smith would be stripped of his committee assignments and his conference leadership position.

“These are very serious allegations that, if true, constitute a clear betrayal of the public trust,” Mr. Klein said in a statement.

And in New York City, the case suggests an unseemly connection between money and the Republican Party’s nominating process, and raises questions for a leading Republican candidate, John Catsimatidis. Mr. Tabone is an influential campaign adviser to Mr. Catsimatidis and in-house counsel to the candidate’s privately held company, which owns the Gristedes supermarket chain. The charges are also likely to be a distraction for Joseph J. Lhota, another leading Republican candidate, who just days ago celebrated the endorsement of Mr. Halloran.

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Catsimatidis said he had suspended Mr. Tabone pending the outcome of the charges, and he dismissed the idea that the indictment would affect his mayoral bid.

“Why would it affect the election? Why would it affect me?” Mr. Catsimatidis said. “It affects my campaign zero. We are going 100 percent ahead.”

Mr. Catsimatidis played down Mr. Tabone’s role in his business, describing him as one of several lawyers under his employ, but acknowledged that Mr. Tabone had been closely involved in his campaign for several months.

Asked if Mr. Tabone’s discussions with a rival Republican candidate could be viewed as a form of betrayal, Mr. Catsimatidis replied, “I think it can be considered a little bit of treason.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Lhota declined to comment.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who said he was familiar with only the broad outlines of the charges, said that they illustrated the need to hold nonpartisan elections in the city, a cause that he has championed over the years but that has failed to gain widespread support.

Mr. Smith, 56, was taken from his home in St. Albans in handcuffs by F.B.I. agents before sunrise and Mr. Halloran, a lawyer, was arrested about the same time, law enforcement authorities said.

Mr. Smith, a contractor and real estate developer, has said he was considering running for mayor as a Republican, and the charges contend that he made payments to Mr. Halloran in exchange for the councilman’s assistance in setting up meetings with Republican leaders as part of an effort to get on the ballot, the complaint said

The criminal complaint was filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and unsealed Tuesday morning. Mr. Smith, Mr. Halloran and the others were to appear later Tuesday before a United States magistrate judge in United States District Court in White Plains.

Mr. Smith, according to the complaint, agreed with the cooperating witness and the undercover F.B.I. agent, who was masquerading as a wealthy real estate developer, to pay off leaders of Republican county committees in New York’s five boroughs. The bribes were to be paid to obtain specific certificates authorizing him to run for mayor as a Republican even though he was a registered Democrat.

The undercover agent and the cooperating witness served as intermediaries between the senator and Mr. Halloran, the complaint said.

Mr. Smith’s lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, said his client denied wrongdoing. “Malcolm Smith is a dedicated and highly respected public servant and he steadfastly denies these charges,” Mr. Shargel said, adding that he would have more to say after he had an opportunity to study the charges.

Lawyers for Mr. Savino and Mr. Tabone, Kevin B. Faga and Vito A. Palimieri, could not immediately be reached for comment. The lawyers representing the other defendants could not immediately be identified.

Most of the defendants, according to the complaint, were looking for something: Mr. Smith was seeking authorization to get his name on the ballot. Mr. Halloran, in addition to cash payments, also mentioned the possibility of being named deputy police commissioner if Mr. Smith found his way into Gracie Mansion.

Ms. Jasmin wanted an ownership interest in a company she believed was involved in a real estate deal, the complaint says, and Mr. Smith promised to steer $500,000 in state transportation funds to that project.

And at least one of the defendants was also looking for a way to avoid jail.

George Venizelos, the assistant director of the F.B.I.’s New York office, said in a statement that Mr. Tabone, clearly aware that the bribery scheme was illegal, patted down the undercover F.B.I. agent at one point to see if he was wearing a recording device. “He was,” Mr. Venizelos said, “but Tabone was less skilled at conducting a pat-down than he was at conducting a shakedown.”

At the same time, Mr. Tabone, according to the complaint, boasted to the undercover agent when he was asked if he could deliver the certification to appear on the Republican ballot. “Nobody else runs the party,” he said. “I run the party.”

But Mr. Smith became impatient, asking the agent and the cooperating witness during a meeting in his office whether the Republican committee leaders were delaying getting his certificates because they wanted more money.

Mr. Smith, according to the complaint, instructed the two men not to pay the committee leaders any more money until they had “close[d] … the deal.” He also said that before the leaders received “even a nickel more, [he’d] have to stand on the Empire State Building and drop every person [he] endorsed and hold Malcolm up and say he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Matter of fact, he’s better than sliced bread.”

According to the complaint, Mr. Halloran set up a meeting at which the undercover agent and the witness met Mr. Savino and Mr. Tabone, and negotiated the amounts of the bribes for the documents. In exchange, Mr. Halloran sought and received more than $20,000 in cash for himself, prosecutors said.

Though at one point, according to the complaint, Mr. Halloran said he could probably get the leaders of all five Republican county parties to sign certificates on behalf of Mr. Smith, no other county leader has been accused of wrongdoing.

Mr. Tabone and Mr. Savino were paid bribes of more than $40,000 and were promised $40,000 more, and they in turn agreed to use their official capacities with Republican county committees to obtain the documents Mr. Smith would need to run for mayor as a Republican

Mr. Smith, in exchange for help from Mr. Savino and Mr. Tabone, agreed to use his Senate office to help win state funds for a road project in Spring Valley that would benefit a real estate development that Senator Smith believed was being built by a company belonging to the undercover agent.

The development involved building a community center in Spring Valley. On Tuesday, a sign near the site with the words “Coming Soon!” showed a rendering of the center.

The complaint said that on Nov. 16, Mr. Smith met the undercover agent and the cooperating witness at a hotel in White Plains and asked the witness to contact a Republican Party county chairman identified in the charges only as “County Chairman #1” to try to “change him” by persuading him to support Mr. Smith rather than another mayoral candidate whom the chairman had publicly supported.

Later that day, the complaint said, Mr. Halloran met the undercover agent at a Queens restaurant in order to receive a bribe in exchange for taking what the charges refer to as unspecified “unrelated official action.” During that meeting, the agent asked Mr. Halloran if he knew “County Chairman #1” and Mr. Halloran said that he did, and that he knew Mr. Savino. Mr. Halloran agreed to ask the county chairman and Mr. Savino what they would want in exchange for their support for a mayoral candidate, the complaint said.

And on that same day, the undercover agent met Mr. Smith at a hotel in Manhattan and told him that the agent could arrange a meeting with “County Chairman #1” and Mr. Savino during which the agent would try to negotiate their support for the senator, the complaint said. Mr. Smith, the complaint said, told the undercover agent: “You pull this off, you can have the house. I’ll be a tenant.”

Several months later, Mr. Smith met the cooperating witness in Rockland County, the complaint said. As they sat in a parked car, the witness told Mr. Smith that getting the certificates from the county leaders would cost “a pretty penny,” the complaint said.

“It’s worth any price?” the witness asked.

The senator responded, according to the complaint: “Look, talk to me before you close it. But it’s worth it. Because you know how big a deal it is.”

Two weeks later, Mr. Halloran met the undercover agent and the witness at a Manhattan hotel and told them that Mr. Savino wanted $25,000 “in an envelope” in exchange for signing the certificate, the complaint said. Mr. Tabone, the person said, wanted $50,000 — half of the money before he signed and the balance afterward.

Mr. Smith has been a subject of several criminal inquiries in recent years and his constituents have steadfastly stood by him in the past. After his arrest, some of those who live in his district were hesitant to cast judgment.

Francois Pierrelouis, 80, said he voted for Mr. Smith in the last election and he called the allegations “just an accusation.”

While he said it was too soon to call Mr. Smith guilty, he said, in general, he was tired of politicians “that are not connected to the needs of the people.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Man Offers Guilty Plea, Upending Terror Case

June 14, 2012

The New York Times on June 13, 2012 released the following:

“By BENJAMIN WEISER

A terrorism case in Manhattan that raised key questions about government interrogation tactics ended abruptly on Wednesday after the defendant pleaded guilty to conspiring to support a Somali terrorist group.

The defendant, an Eritrean man named Mohamed Ibrahim Ahmed, admitted in Federal District Court that he trained in a camp run by the Somali group, Al Shabab, in 2009. The case had been seen as a potential test of the Obama administration’s strategy of interrogating terrorism suspects for both intelligence and law enforcement purposes.

Indeed, the plea came as the judge, P. Kevin Castel, was poised to rule on a motion by Mr. Ahmed’s lawyers seeking suppression of statements he had made to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while he was in custody in Nigeria; his lawyers argued that the statements had not been voluntary and, thus, were inadmissible.

“I have in my hand a 60-page draft of the decision on the motion to suppress,” Judge Castel, holding up a thick document, said in court before accepting Mr. Ahmed’s plea. The judge did not reveal how he would have ruled on the motion, but said that the ruling itself would “now be suppressed.”

Mr. Ahmed, 38, who had lived in Sweden, was scheduled for trial on July 9. He had been accused of providing material support to a terrorist group, receiving training and bomb-making instruction in Shabab military camps in Somalia in 2009 and using a firearm in a crime of violence. The firearm count alone carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. As a result of Mr. Ahmed’s plea — to two conspiracy counts — he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years when he is sentenced on Nov. 2, the judge said in court.

Mr. Ahmed’s lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, said after the proceeding, “I’m sure Mr. Ahmed would have liked to have challenged the actions of the United States.” But, she added, given the difference between a maximum 10-year sentence and what could have resulted from a guilty verdict, it would have been a “humongous risk” to go to trial.

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said Mr. Ahmed had “traveled a long way from his home in Sweden to Somalia, where he took up the cause of Al Shabab, a deadly terrorist organization and sworn enemy of the United States and its people.”

Mr. Ahmed told the judge that in Somalia, he contributed 2,000 euros to Al Shabab and trained in one of its military camps, knowing that the United States considered it a terrorist organization.

Mr. Ahmed was taken into custody by Nigeria in 2009 under suspicion of being an agent for Al Qaeda. He was later interrogated by separate groups of American officials, known colloquially as “dirty” and “clean” teams.

The first team questioned him for intelligence purposes, without advising him of his rights, prosecutors have said. About a week later, a second team, of F.B.I. agents, read him his rights, which he waived, and he began to make incriminating statements, the government says. An issue before the judge had been how separate the American officials kept the two interrogations.

A prosecutor, Benjamin Naftalis, told Judge Castel that had the case gone to trial, the evidence would have included Mr. Ahmed’s statements and testimony from cooperating witnesses. Prosecutors have said a former Shabab military commander has been cooperating; although he has not been identified, his description resembles that of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali captured by the United States military last year and questioned aboard a naval vessel for about two months.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


U.S. Expected to Charge Executive Tied to Galleon Case

October 26, 2011
Rajat K. Gupta
Douglas Healey for The New York Times
Rajat Gupta at his home in Westport, Conn., on Wednesday morning.

The New York Times on October 25, 2011 released the following:

“BY AZAM AHMED, PETER LATTMAN AND BEN PROTESS

Federal prosecutors are expected to file criminal charges on Wednesday against Rajat K. Gupta, the most prominent business executive ensnared in an aggressive insider trading investigation, according to people briefed on the case.

The case against Mr. Gupta, 62, who is expected to surrender to F.B.I. agents on Wednesday, would extend the reach of the government’s inquiry into America’s most prestigious corporate boardrooms. Most of the defendants charged with insider trading over the last two years have plied their trade exclusively on Wall Street.

The charges would also mean a stunning fall from grace of a trusted adviser to political leaders and chief executives of the world’s most celebrated companies.

A former director of Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble and the longtime head of McKinsey & Company, the elite consulting firm, Mr. Gupta has been under investigation over whether he leaked corporate secrets to Raj Rajaratnam, the hedge fund manager who was sentenced this month to 11 years in prison for trading on illegal stock tips.

While there has been no indication yet that Mr. Gupta profited directly from the information he passed to Mr. Rajaratnam, securities laws prohibit company insiders from divulging corporate secrets to those who then profit from them.

The case against Mr. Gupta, who lives in Westport, Conn., would tie up a major loose end in the long-running investigation of Mr. Rajaratnam’s hedge fund, the Galleon Group. Yet federal authorities continue their campaign to ferret out insider trading on multiple fronts. This month, for example, a Denver-based hedge fund manager and a chemist at the Food and Drug Administration pleaded guilty to such charges.

A spokeswoman for the United States attorney in Manhattan declined to comment.

Gary P. Naftalis, a lawyer for Mr. Gupta, said in a statement: “The facts demonstrate that Mr. Gupta is an innocent man and that he acted with honesty and integrity.”

Mr. Gupta, in his role at the helm of McKinsey, was a trusted adviser to business leaders including Jeffrey R. Immelt, of General Electric, and Henry R. Kravis, of the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company. A native of Kolkata, India, and a graduate of the Harvard Business School, Mr. Gupta has also been a philanthropist, serving as a senior adviser to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mr. Gupta also served as a special adviser to the United Nations.

His name emerged just a week before Mr. Rajaratnam’s trial in March, when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an administrative proceeding against him. The agency accused Mr. Gupta of passing confidential information about Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble to Mr. Rajaratnam, who then traded on the news.

The details were explosive. Authorities said Mr. Gupta gave Mr. Rajaratnam advanced word of Warren E. Buffett’s $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs during the darkest days of the financial crisis in addition to other sensitive information affecting the company’s share price.

At the time, federal prosecutors named Mr. Gupta a co-conspirator of Mr. Rajaratnam, but they never charged him. Still, his presence loomed large at Mr. Rajaratnam’s trial. Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman, testified about Mr. Gupta’s role on the board and the secrets he was privy to, including earnings details and the bank’s strategic deliberations.

The legal odyssey leading to charges against Mr. Gupta could serve as a case study in law school criminal procedure class. He fought the S.E.C.’s civil action, which would have been heard before an administrative judge. Mr. Gupta argued that the proceeding denied him of his constitutional right to a jury trial and treated him differently than the other Mr. Rajaratnam-related defendants, all of whom the agency sued in federal court.

Mr. Gupta prevailed, and the S.E.C. dropped its case in August, but it maintained the right to bring an action in federal court. The agency is expected to file a new, parallel civil case against Mr. Gupta as well. It is unclear what has changed since the S.E.C. dropped its case in August.

An S.E.C. spokesman declined to comment.

The case could be a challenge for the government. Many of the defendants convicted of insider trading, including Mr. Rajaratnam, have been caught on wiretaps swapping secret information.

At Mr. Rajaratnam’s trial, the government played a recorded conversation between Mr. Gupta and Mr. Rajaratnam in July 2008. On that call, Mr. Gupta divulged that Goldman was considering a purchase of either Wachovia or American International Group.

Evidence that Mr. Rajaratnam traded on this information was never presented, however.

Two of the most incriminating calls played in court pertained to tips that the government said had come from Mr. Gupta. But those calls were conversations between Mr. Rajaratnam and his employees, which could make them inadmissible in a trial of Mr. Gupta.

In one call played for the jury, Mr. Rajaratnam told a colleague, “I heard yesterday from somebody who’s on the board of Goldman Sachs that they are going to lose $2 per share.” In the other, Mr. Rajaratnam said to his trader, “I got a call saying something good is going to happen to Goldman.”

The S.E.C.’s original case also outlined evidence that could potentially be used at trial. That includes Mr. Gupta’s phone records of on Sept. 23, 2008. That day, the Goldman board met via telephone to consider Mr. Buffett’s $5 billion investment in Goldman.

“Immediately after disconnecting from the board call, Gupta called Rajaratnam from the same line,” the S.E.C. filing says. A minute later, Galleon funds bought more than 175,000 shares of Goldman just before the market closed, the agency says, and later netted a $900,000 profit when the deal was announced.

Though he had an enviable résumé and earned millions of dollars a year at McKinsey, Mr. Gupta became fixated on the extraordinary wealth showered on hedge fund managers and private equity chiefs, according to trial testimony. Consultants are well paid, but the compensation pales in comparison to those Wall Street titans.

Around the time of his retirement in 2007, he and Mr. Rajaratnam helped start New Silk Route, a private equity firm focused on investments in India. Though Mr. Rajaratnam never had an active role in the firm, he and Mr. Gupta were good friends, having met through their philanthropic interests.

Mr. Gupta periodically visited Mr. Rajaratnam’s hedge fund, Galleon, on Madison Avenue and 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan. The two would order Indian or Chinese takeout and kibitz in Mr. Rajaratnam’s office. Mr. Gupta became an investor in Galleon’s hedge funds.

As part of his foray into Wall Street, Mr. Gupta took a senior adviser post at K.K.R., the firm co-founded by his friend Mr. Kravis. During Mr. Rajaratnam’s trial, prosecutors played a tape of the hedge fund manager gossiping with a friend about Mr. Gupta’s ambitions.

“My analysis of the situation is he’s enamored with Kravis, and I think he wants to be in that circle,” Mr. Rajaratnam said. “That’s a billionaire circle, right?””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


FBI’s Significant New Powers

June 13, 2011

The New York Times on June 12, 2011 published the following By Charlie Savage:

Valerie E. Caproni
Valerie E. Caproni

F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds

WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.

The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.

The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.

“Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau’s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general’s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused “national security letters,” which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.

Valerie E. Caproni, the F.B.I. general counsel, said the bureau had fixed the problems with the national security letters and had taken steps to make sure they would not recur. She also said the bureau, which does not need permission to alter its manual so long as the rules fit within broad guidelines issued by the attorney general, had carefully weighed the risks and the benefits of each change.

“Every one of these has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of why do the employees need to be able to do it, what are the possible risks and what are the controls,” she said, portraying the modifications to the rules as “more like fine-tuning than major changes.”

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.

Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database. Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without making a record about their decision.

Mr. German said the change would make it harder to detect and deter inappropriate use of databases for personal purposes. But Ms. Caproni said it was too cumbersome to require agents to open formal inquiries before running quick checks. She also said agents could not put information uncovered from such searches into F.B.I. files unless they later opened an assessment.

The new rules will also relax a restriction on administering lie-detector tests and searching people’s trash. Under current rules, agents cannot use such techniques until they open a “preliminary investigation,” which — unlike an assessment — requires a factual basis for suspecting someone of wrongdoing. But soon agents will be allowed to use those techniques for one kind of assessment, too: when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.

Agents have asked for that power in part because they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others. But Ms. Caproni said information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons, like determining whether the subject might pose a threat to agents.

The new manual will also remove a limitation on the use of surveillance squads, which are trained to surreptitiously follow targets. Under current rules, the squads can be used only once during an assessment, but the new rules will allow agents to use them repeatedly. Ms. Caproni said restrictions on the duration of physical surveillance would still apply, and argued that because of limited resources, supervisors would use the squads only rarely during such a low-level investigation.

The revisions also clarify what constitutes “undisclosed participation” in an organization by an F.B.I. agent or informant, which is subject to special rules — most of which have not been made public. The new manual says an agent or an informant may surreptitiously attend up to five meetings of a group before those rules would apply — unless the goal is to join the group, in which case the rules apply immediately.

At least one change would tighten, rather than relax, the rules. Currently, a special agent in charge of a field office can delegate the authority to approve sending an informant to a religious service. The new manual will require such officials to handle those decisions personally.

In addition, the manual clarifies a description of what qualifies as a “sensitive investigative matter” — investigations, at any level, that require greater oversight from supervisors because they involve public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars.

The new rules make clear, for example, that if the person with such a role is a victim or a witness rather than a target of an investigation, extra supervision is not necessary. Also excluded from extra supervision will be investigations of low- and midlevel officials for activities unrelated to their position — like drug cases as opposed to corruption, for example.

The manual clarifies the definition of who qualifies for extra protection as a legitimate member of the news media in the Internet era: prominent bloggers would count, but not people who have low-profile blogs. And it will limit academic protections only to scholars who work for institutions based in the United States.

Since the release of the 2008 manual, the assessment category has drawn scrutiny because it sets a low bar to examine a person or a group. The F.B.I. has opened thousands of such low-level investigations each month, and a vast majority has not generated information that justified opening more intensive investigations.

Ms. Caproni said the new manual would adjust the definition of assessments to make clear that they must be based on leads. But she rejected arguments that the F.B.I. should focus only on investigations that begin with a firm reason for suspecting wrongdoing.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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