D.C. Cops Fumble Intern Investigation

Clueless in the Capital

From hair salons to upscale dog runs, the sole subject of conversation all weekend in Washington was the missing intern Chandra Levy. People are beginning to wonder if this is another botched job by D.C. police detectives, a force with a lengthy record of failing to solve cases — including those of more than 500 people who have gone missing in the city since 1995. In the Levy case, Police Chief Charles Ramsey already has conceded there have been no real leads and little progress.

The Levy family, which has demanded a more aggressive investigation, is asking that California congressman Gary Condit be given a lie detector test, an idea Condit’s lawyers dismissed out of hand. Pointing to apparent inconsistencies in his public statements, the Levy spokesmen bluntly say they think the representative has behaved suspiciously, though police insist he’s not a suspect. Condit has admitted having an affair with Levy, a former Federal Bureau of Prisons intern from his district.

Levy was last seen on the evening of April 30. According to CNN, D.C. police say she talked to Condit that day. She was last heard from on May 1, when she sent an e-mail to her parents at around 10:45 a.m. According to the time line an aide gave ABC, Condit met with Vice President Cheney at 12:30 p.m. on May 1, spent the afternoon in meetings at his office, and went to a 5 p.m. doctor’s appointment. He cast a vote on the House floor at 6:30 p.m., then went with an unidentified reporter to a lounge before heading home to have dinner with his wife, Carolyn.

Late last week, Carolyn, who had ducked the FBI in California, sat down with agents in a northern Virginia office building for a more than three hour interview about the case. She had been in Washington on a rare visit from April 28 through May 3. A high-placed law enforcement official told CNN the feds’ discussion with Carolyn was “entirely about a minute-by-minute description of what happened during the period when she was in town…the times she was with [Condit] and the times she was not.”

Little is known about Carolyn Condit save that she stays out of the public eye and in the past has been ill with migraine headaches and fatigue. Neighbors say she has recently appeared fine.

For now, the Levy case remains a missing-persons matter, with no suspects and no solid theories. District Police Chief Charles Ramsey said last Thursday he was “not really happy” with the scant progress. “The good news is we haven’t found anything that indicates she met with foul play,” the chief told reporters. “The bad news is that we haven’t found anything at all. Period.”

Asked whether the investigation was handled the right way, Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said the cops may have been led astray. “Obviously, if the congressman had told the truth at the beginning, which he did not, they would have discovered things,” diGenova said. “He was wasting their time. There should have been a consensual search of his apartment, and it’s obviously too late to do it now in hopes of finding anything else.”

Butcher of Belgrade Puts NATO on Trial

Slobo Strikes Back

Given the opportunity, Slobodan Milosevic will turn his war-crimes trial at the Hague into a broad indictment of NATO for its own atrocities during the war in Kosovo. Slobo already says his extradition from a Bosnian jail amounts to kidnapping and a NATO violation of Yugoslavian sovereignty.

Now the former Yugoslav president plans to claim — with some merit — that during the mid 1990s the U.S. used him as its virtual surrogate against breakaway Serb leaders in Bosnia. Further, he’ll say the U.S. strongly indicated to him it wouldn’t attack Kosovo, even as the CIA poured money and arms into the Kosovo Liberation Army’s guerrilla actions and made final preparations for an air attack.

In a damning accusation, the Butcher of Belgrade is expected to blame the U.S. and NATO for the high loss of civilian life. He believes local paramilitary units and Yugoslav army commanders in Kosovo become enraged at the U.S. double cross and ran wild, killing civilians at random.

NATO is the war criminal, Slobo will say. He makes the following key points:

Environmental harm: Bombing oil and petrochemical plants near the cities of Novi Sad and Pancevo spread cancer-causing toxins across civilian areas and contaminated the Danube, thus threatening the drinking water supplies of thousands of downstream inhabitants.

Infrastructure damage: U.S. forces in effect attacked civilians when they knocked out Serbia’s electric-power and water-purification systems — a tactic the Clinton White House classified as terrorism in 1998. The following year, Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich told the House that cutting off electricity to hospitals was “almost certainly a war crime.”

Nuclear fallout: NATO ignored a demand from Italy this year that it investigate the use of depleted uranium in U.S. armor-piercing shells fired in Kosovo and Bosnia. Six Italian soldiers died, allegedly of exposure to depleted uranium, while on a peacekeeping mission, as did Belgian and Portuguese soldiers. “We’re a military alliance,” said a NATO spokesperson, “not a medical alliance.” But Doug Rokke, a physicist who directed a U.S. Army team monitoring the use of spent uranium shells after the Gulf War, pointed out that whenever the military fires spent uranium ammo in the U.S., the Pentagon cleans up the area and fences it off to protect the public.

Nonmilitary targets: To protect pilots and limit protest at home, the Clinton administration approved bombing above 15,000 feet, a high-altitude launching point that all but guaranteed bombs would be sent off course and land in civilian areas.

Lack of real humanitarian aid: NATO’s backing of Kosovo guerrilla fighters fueled the battles that forced thousands of refugees from their homes and into the wintry mountains. But because the West feared losing aircrews, it abandoned any serious efforts to drop food and other supplies.

Shady Landlord Tapped as Ambassador to Spain

California Scheming

To be an American ambassador to a foreign country, you usually have to be some rich person who contributed millions of dollars to the new president’s campaign coffers. So there was nothing surprising when President Bush nominated Orange County, California, apartment landlord George Argyros as ambassador to Spain. After all, by his own account, Argyros collected $50 million for the Bush war chest. He oughta get something. He doesn’t even speak Spanish, but so what? Argyros is “a leader in his community who has been active in numerous civic, cultural, and philanthropic organizations,” Bush declared.

What Dubya didn’t say is that Argyros is under investigation by the California attorney general for the swindling of thousands of poor, middle- class, and immigrant tenants. According to an investigation by Anthony Pignataro of OC Weekly, a Voice sister paper, the nominee has for years systematically ripped off thousands of tenants by overcharging and shortchanging them. Argyros’s lawyers and associates have strenuously denied committing any crimes.

Last December, the Orange County D.A.’s office met with Argyros reps to present him with the results of their 13-month probe into the landlord’s practices, which included illegally billing tenants for repairs, cheating them out of security deposits, and charging them for fictitious expenses. “During a six-month period in 1999, [Argyros’s company] illegally charged 406 former tenants $193 each for painting when the actual cost was $67,” OC Weekly reported. Meanwhile, law enforcement sources said Argyros “abused tenants regardless of age or ethnicity, but allegedly targeted Vietnamese tenants most aggressively.”

Mechanic Claims He Was Fired for Alerting Authorities

Pentagon Sex Slaves?

Ben Johnston, a Texas aircraft mechanic working in Bosnia for a Pentagon contractor, is charging in Texas federal district court that he was fired because he ratted out fellow workers who were swapping underage girls as maids and sex slaves, and dealing in illegal firearms as well. The employer, DynCorp, denies the charges, which are being made under RICO, federal racketeering laws.

Johnston claims that when he alerted his DynCorp supervisor, the manager told him “to mind his own business.” He says his three-year contract was abruptly cancelled and he was fired without notice after reporting these activities to the Army Criminal Investigation Command in March 2000.

The suit alleges that DynCorp employees purchased the passports of women and girls from Serbian Mafia members, who brought them into Bosnia from other Eastern European countries.

Urine the Wrong

When an upstate New York resident complained last summer about a local radio station’s advertising “urinal splash guards” with National Hockey League emblems attached in local bars and restaurants, Federal Communications Commissioner Gloria Tristani opined:

“The U.S. Supreme Court has noted urination is excretory and is not a subject for routine public viewing… Proposing to routinely urinate on someone to express disagreement with that person’s sports affiliations (the NHL teams) or job performance (the NHL commissioner) is the kind of degrading and pointless personal attack that possesses little political value.”

Additional reporting: Sandra Bisin and Ariston-Lizabeth Anderson

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