Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Denise Woo Follow-Up

Today’s LA Times (Greg Krikorian, Ex-FBI agent is sentenced in plea agreement, LA Times print edition, Oct. 31, 2006) reports that Denise Woo was sentenced to probation and a $1000 fine as part of the plea bargain that brought an end to the felony case the U.S. government had tried to make against her.

Denise Woo was an FBI agent instructed to help make a case against a family friend, Jeffrey Wang, who happened to be innocent. She eventually resisted, tried to convince the FBI to drop the case, and—assuming that the plea bargain represents her actions accurately—finally tipped off Wang that he was being victimized by a confidential informant.

The FBI tried to convict her on felony charges, but the case apparently foundered on the established record of mismanagement and malfeasance in the FBI Chinese counter-intelligence squad in LA while headed by James J. Smith.

The defense probably would have called on Smith to testify—who had been fired from the FBI for his affair with one of his operatives, Katrina Leung, who was stealing documents from his briefcase—in order to make a case for the dysfunctional and unprofessional character of his operation.

The FBI, unwilling to expose either its procedures or problems, punted on the case and agreed to let Woo plead down to a non-felony offense.

So Denise Woo has her life back—kinda—after a seven year ordeal.

Jeffrey Wang, who still works for a Defense Department contractor, stated:

“The government should be ashamed for its reprehensible treatment of me...and for prosecuting and ruining the life of Denise Woo, a person of great integrity, who stood up for an innocent man. Tragically, justice was not served in either of our cases.”

I think that the objective of US counterintelligence operations isn’t justice—it’s intimidation. Specifically, the threat of capricious government harassment serves as a disincentive for members of a target group to do anything, even if it’s legal, that might attract the unfavorable attention of the spooks.

Whether or not one believes that State of Fear Lite is necessary, effective, immoral, or whatever, the fact remains that cases brought under these conditions tend not to do very well in court.

There’s another problem.

When bending the law instead of upholding it becomes the guideline for police activity, the resulting partial immunity from legal rigor, the laws of evidence, and common decency encourage callousness, laziness, incompetence, and outright dishonesty.

Lives get ruined as a result of this moral and legal abdication.

Lives like Denise Woo’s.

I blogged on this case previously. The definitive piece on the case is the article The Deception of Denise Woo by Alison Frankel in The American Lawyer. Unfortunately, the piece does not appear to be on-line anymore.

I also wish to take this case to apologize for imputing that Woo’s attorney’s handed the story to Ms. Frankel on a silver platter. She rightly calls me for that baseless assertion in her comment to my original post.