DOJ report: [Jim] Greenlee retaliated against [Hal] Neilson

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DOJ report: [Jim] Greenlee retaliated against [Hal] Neilson

Postby admin » Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:23 am

DOJ report: Greenlee retaliated against Neilson
by Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal
Oct 23, 2013

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In Oxford, Mississippi, in 2003, the U.S. attorney’s office reportedly initiated a “convenience store initiative,” targeting roughly 150 mostly Arab and Muslim store owners looking for suspicious sales of Sudafed and possible tax violations. The Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives led the initiative, but FBI agents in the Oxford resident agency found out about it. [13] When their complaints to the U.S. attorney fell on deaf ears, Senior Supervisory Resident Agent Hal Neilson and four of his agents reported to FBI management that “the only individuals targeted by the [convenience store initiative] were of middle eastern descent and the only apparent nexus for investigation was ethnicity.” He sought legal advice from FBI headquarters, “in the interest of insuring the civil rights of U.S. persons.” [14] The U.S. attorney’s office initiated a retaliatory investigation of Neilson’s unrelated business investments and charged him with failing to disclose a financial interest in a government lease and making false statements to cover it up. The FBI fired him. A jury acquitted him at trial, however, and he eventually won reinstatement. He retired from the FBI in 2012. [15]

-- Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy, by Mike German


OXFORD – Then-U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee wrongly retaliated after Oxford FBI chief Hal Neilson reported what he believed to be improper actions by the region’s top government lawyer, the U.S. Department of Justice says.

Neilson subsequently was suspended from his post and indicted by a federal grand jury, although a jury later acquitted him of some counts and outside prosecutors decided to drop the others.

The 34-page report from the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility comes some six years after Neilson complained to his FBI superiors that he was targeted because he officially criticized Greenlee.

Greenlee could not be reached for comment on the report, dated Sept. 27, 2013, which is marked “sensitive and confidential,” not to be distributed without OPR’s prior approval.

But during a subsequent federal investigation, Greenlee denied he retaliated against Neilson.

Tuesday, Neilson responded strongly, saying he disagrees with some parts of the report “but the most important thing was the retaliation – it is a vindication that actions were taken against me because of Jim Greenlee’s vendetta.”

Both men are in private law practice now in Oxford.

The OPR report, a copy of which was obtained by the Daily Journal, states that Neilson’s 2006 communications with his superiors “were a contributing factor” in Greenlee’s 2007 questions up the chain of command about Neilson’s real estate interests and Greenlee’s 2008 recommendation to the FBI director that Neilson be transferred out of the Northern District of Mississippi.

The findings are a mixed bag of results for the two men, though Neilson said he will appeal one issue.

Background issues

Seven years ago, in public law enforcement roles, they came to loggerheads over at least two investigations:

• A U.S. Attorney Office-initiated case called “Convenience Store Initiative,” which Neilson claimed was an improper national security investigation with overtones of racial profiling and other civil rights violations.

• The notorious 2005 “Beef Plant Scandal,” which Neilson claimed posed a conflict of interest for Greenlee, whose brother-in-law, Robert Whitwell, was a law partner to Anthony Farese, who represented one of the scandal’s defendants.

As a result of these tensions and others, Greenlee also had the Neilson-supervised Oxford FBI Office removed from investigating the Richard Scruggs legal scandal, which was turned over to the Jackson FBI.

“I have completely lost trust and confidence in (Neilson’s) ability to supervise the FBI agents stationed” in north Mississippi, Greenlee wrote to Director Robert Mueller in January 2008. Neilson “resents me and our office, the exact cause of which is difficult to pinpoint but it is present.”

Two years earlier, then-Jackson FBI chief John G. Raucci told the FBI’s Inspection Division, “It was quite apparent USA Greenlee has an extraordinary dislike for SSA Neilson.”


Complaints a factor

After seven years of complaints and investigations, the Office of Professional Responsibility concludes that Neilson’s official complaints about Greenlee were “contributing factors” to Greenlee’s retaliations against him.

However, the DOJ report states that Neilson’s subsequent suspension and indictment over a local FBI-office real estate deal “would have occurred” even without Greenlee’s knowledge of Neilson’s disclosures, and “no corrective action” is warranted, even though Greenlee denied he contacted Washington for retaliatory reasons.

Tuesday, Neilson said he will object to that assessment, saying he’d gained FBI approval for all his real estate dealings until Greenlee went after him.

The report comes to a different conclusion about Greenlee’s motive behind trying to get Neilson transferred.

No “clear and convincing evidence exists,” it states, to show that Greenlee would have recommended Neilson’s transfer without “his retaliatory motive.”

This conclusion was referred to the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management to order “whatever correction action, if any” is deemed appropriate.

Six years ago, the DOJ informed Greenlee that he had not engaged in professional misconduct or exercised poor judgment in either the store investigation or the beef plant matter.

“We consider the matter to be closed,” it said.


As for Neilson, he said, “I’m not done, not by a longshot.”

patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com
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Re: DOJ report: [Jim] Greenlee retaliated against [Hal] Neil

Postby admin » Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:43 am

Indicted FBI agent: Greenlee was out to get me
by Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal
Jan 29, 2010

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OXFORD – FBI agent Hal Neilson’s professional troubles apparently began some five years ago, when he says he discovered a U.S. attorney’s office investigation for “no reason” into nearly 150 north Mississippi residents of Middle Eastern origins and then later questioned the handling of the Mississippi Beef Plant investigation.

When Neilson reported his concerns, he asked his employer for protection against retaliation. At that time, he was the FBI’s resident agent in Oxford. As of today, he reportedly has never heard a response.

Monday, the 49-year-old career agent will answer a five-count federal indictment about some personal financial actions.

While neither he nor anyone else directly involved with his case will say much, if anything, about it, documents provided to the Daily Journal show that Neilson felt he was under attack for blowing the whistle.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee, appointed in 2001 by President George W. Bush, leaves office Sunday. His permanent replacement has not been announced by the Obama administration.

In an e-mail to the Daily Journal on Wednesday, Greenlee acknowledged that Neilson’s “conduct” has been under investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, and now the case will be handled by the U.S. attorney in Middle Louisiana.

“It is not unusual to seek recusal in such cases,” wrote Greenlee, who declined to comment further on Neilson’s accusations.

Neilson was indicted Jan. 13 by a federal grand jury, accused of lying about and failing to report his financial interests in the Oxford FBI Building. His arraignment is set before Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander.

Accusations in e-mail

Neilson’s accusations come from his own e-mail to Mississippi’s congressional delegation months ago and other documents supplied to the Daily Journal, though not by him.

In the messages, he voices his concern about his job and why he believes his relationship with Greenlee fell apart starting about 2004.

Chiefly, Neilson points to his opposition to the so-called Convenience Store Initiative, which involved the Middle Easterners, and internal pressure about the beef plant case.

The beef plant case came in two phases – the mismanagement of the Yalobusha County facility, which left the state holding $50 million in loan guarantees, and accusations that three Georgia businessmen improperly sought to influence then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove as they sought involvement in the project.

Five people went to jail and the questions surrounding the never-indicted Musgrove contributed to his defeat in a U.S. Senate campaign.

The FBI began its investigation into the beef plant in early 2005. Neilson described himself as supervisor of a task force involving the FBI and the state auditor’s office.

After leading the effort for about a year, he was removed from the investigation and told by his supervisor that Greenlee complained the case was at a standstill.

Neilson apparently told his supervisor that any holdups were due to attempts by the U.S. attorney’s office to steer the investigation.

Greenlee did not respond to this claim.

Store initiative

Neilson’s other problem, he was told, surrounded “issues” with Greenlee’s Convenience Store Initiative.

Documents show 146 of the region’s residents of Middle Eastern origins were targeted, and Neilson said he heard from his fellow agents that Greenlee’s office was using the federal grand jury to obtain documents and conduct investigations on these people.

According to documents with the e-mail to Mississippi members of Congress, Neilson said his agents perceived these investigations to be for “no reason,” in violation of the Civil Rights and Privacy acts and a possible abuse of the federal grand jury.

Neilson claims he sent records of what was going on to his superiors in Jackson for them to address.

“I never heard any results from this submission to Jackson,” he said in this e-mail.

That is when, Neilson wrote, he began to come under “constant attacks,” and endured attempts to undermine him and his conduct of investigations.

He wrote that he was intentionally excluded from standard investigative matters, even though he managed the FBI’s northern district; that the U.S. attorney’s office went around him in the judicial bribery investigation of then-Oxford attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs and others; and that in early 2008 Greenlee asked the FBI director to remove Neilson from his district.

No details from FBI

An FBI spokesman in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday declined to comment on matters between the agency and an employee.

“A subsequent FBI Inspection investigation followed and found absolutely no wrongdoing on my part,” Neilson’s e-mail said.

A few months later, Neilson wrote, he learned he was under investigation about a 2005 investment and its financial disclosure – which bypassed the FBI to the Department of Justice’s inspector general and the Baton Rouge, La., U.S. attorney.

Neilson told the congressional delegation he received an “oral” OK from the FBI to make the investment, and offered to take a polygraph and leave the area to get away from the situation.

“It has cost me my lifetime savings for my four children’s college education and more,” he noted. “I have just one year left to retire and am concerned if I will even make it.”

On Sept. 16, 2008, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III dispatched a message emphasizing his commitment “to protecting employees who report organizational wrongdoing.”

“I will not tolerate reprisals or intimidation,” Mueller wrote in the two-page document.

The Mississippi FBI’s Jackson office reports Neilson is still an FBI employee, although a spokesman declined to say where he is or what happened with his protection request.

“I had hoped the FBI would stand up and protect me against these attacks as well, but they are still ongoing though the FBI keeps me employed,” he wrote in the e-mail. “There has to be someone out there who can stand up and stop these ongoing attacks.”

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.
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Re: DOJ report: [Jim] Greenlee retaliated against [Hal] Neil

Postby admin » Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:46 am

Greenlee named to appeals court
by Jeff Amy
The Oxford Eagle
Associated Press
Published 11:11 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016

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JACKSON — Gov. Phil Bryant on Tuesday appointed the former U.S. attorney for northern Mississippi, Jim Greenlee, to the state Court of Appeals.

Greenlee presided over the prosecution of Richard “Dickie” Scruggs for bribing a judge, but was criticized over his decision to investigate Muslim convenience store owners looking for terrorism ties. That case and Greenlee’s handling of the investigation into the financial collapse of a cattle processing plant led to complaints by FBI agent Hal Neilson, and the Justice Department ultimately concluded that Greenlee retaliated against Neilson when he recommended Neilson be prosecuted over a real estate deal.

Bryant was filling a vacancy created when he elevated James Maxwell from the appeals court to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Maxwell joined the high court Jan. 1. Greenlee joins the appeals court today.

There are seven years remaining on a term from a district covering all or part of 23 counties in Northeast Mississippi. A nonpartisan election will be held in November to fill out the remainder of the term. In a phone interview, Greenlee said he currently anticipates seeking election.

“I hope and plan to do a good job hearing the cases and deciding the cases based on the law and the facts,” Greenlee said.

He declined to address critics of his record as U.S. attorney, saying “I’ll let them talk about that.”

In announcing the appointment, the Republican governor said that “Jim’s background in private practice and experience as a former federal prosecutor make him uniquely qualified for this position.” Asked about Greenlee’s record, Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler replied by email that Bryant, with the help of an advisory committee, “identified the best candidate and appointed him.”

Greenlee was appointed U.S. attorney for northern Mississippi in 2001 by President George W. Bush after serving as an assistant U.S. attorney since 1987. He resigned in 2010, and since then has practiced law in Oxford.

Investigation history

Neilson complained to superiors in 2006 over Greenlee’s investigation of Muslim convenience store owners. The inquiry found no terrorism ties, but state and federal officials charged more than 60 people with illegal acts, including selling more than the legal limit of pseudoephedrine — used to make illegal methamphetamines.

Neilson also complained about how Greenlee handled an investigation into the financial collapse of the Mississippi Beef Processors plant in Oakland. Republicans alleged wrongdoing by Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who took campaign contributions from the plant’s developers, but Musgrove was never charged.

Neilson, at Greenlee’s urging, was indicted on claims he improperly benefited from the construction and lease of offices the FBI rented in Oxford. A jury acquitted Neilson of some charges, and prosecutors then dropped remaining charges.

A 2013 report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that Greenlee’s referral of Neilson for prosecution was motivated in part by Neilson’s complaints about the convenience store and beef plant investigations. However, the report concluded Neilson’s indictment would have occurred even without Neilson’s complaints and recommended no corrective action.

Neilson, now a lawyer in Oxford, declined comment.

Christi McCoy, an Oxford lawyer who represented Neilson and has worked with him, said she believes Greenlee is unfit to serve as a judge. McCoy has her own history with Greenlee. She was nominated to succeed him as U.S. Attorney until she says Greenlee wrote a letter to the Justice Department claiming McCoy was unfit because she used a private investigator who was under investigation.

“He’s been found by the Department of Justice to have abused his power,” McCoy said. “I think that it’s disgusting that Gov. Bryant appointed him.”
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Re: DOJ report: [Jim] Greenlee retaliated against [Hal] Neil

Postby admin » Wed Sep 18, 2019 12:56 am

How The New FBI Damages Democracy
by Ralph Nader and Mike German
The Ralph Nader Radio Hour
September 14, 2019

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Ralph spends the bulk of the hour with prominent FBI whistleblower, Mike German, whose new book is “Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy.” Plus, Ralph answers listener questions!

A sixteen-year veteran of federal law enforcement, Mike German served as a special agent with the FBI, where he specialized in domestic terrorism and covert operations. Mr. German is also fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, which seeks to ensure that our government respects human rights and fundamental freedoms in conducting the fight against terrorism. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Mr. German served as the policy counsel for national security and privacy for the American Civil Liberties Union. He is the author of Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy.

“The FBI very quietly put out on its website that its primary mission was no longer law enforcement, but rather protecting national security and conducting domestic intelligence. And that is a very broad mandate that isn’t well-defined and allows for an awful lot of abuse.”

Mike German, author of Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy

LISTEN TO AUDIO HERE
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