Muslims, Arabs not targeted, FBI says

By Rick Rogers San Diego Union-Tribune 11/17/08

In interviews with The San Diego Union-Tribune, Gary Maziarz, 39, said “dozens of files” he gave the Los Angeles Terrorism Early Warning Group while serving as an intelligence specialist at the base were dossiers on Muslims and Arabs living in Southern California.

This marks the first time Maziarz has spoken to the media about the files since pleading guilty in July 2007 to mishandling classified material and stealing government property.

He agreed to the interviews despite signing a plea agreement with the government limiting his comments on the security breach, which might involve a decade’s worth of intelligence culled from domestic and foreign sources. The deal also requires him to testify if called on.

“Most of the (monitored) people were from Los Angeles. The ties they had to San Diego were, like, maybe they had a house down here or a relative or came down to visit or went on vacation here,” said Maziarz, who splits his time between North County and Arizona as he looks for work and tries to move on with his life.

Many of the stolen files centered on the meeting spots of “people of interest,” including places of worship, businesses and travel plans, he said.

Maziarz’s case could have repercussions well beyond Camp Pendleton.

The existence of CIA, FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents profiling specific minority and religious groups in the United States could undermine contentions by the FBI, the primary federal agency for domestic security, that no programs target upstanding Muslims and Arabs.

“The FBI does not monitor the lawful activities of individuals in the United States, nor does the FBI have a surveillance program to monitor constitutionally protected activities of houses of worship,” FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth said in an e-mail.

Maziarz’s arrest in October 2006 sparked multiple investigations, including those by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Federal agents testifying at his trial said the files found in his possession could not be shared legally with civilian law enforcement.

Essentially, Maziarz said, he used computer networks at Camp Pendleton to tap into classified information that he then passed along to a higher-ranking Marine or one of that person’s subordinates. Maziarz and federal investigative documents have identified that individual as reserve Col. Larry Richards, the base’s former intelligence chief and co-founder of the Los Angeles Terrorism Early Warning Group.

Maziarz said he and others broke national-security protocols out of concern that FBI officials were not sharing anti-terrorism intelligence with local law enforcement or were doing it slowly because of bureaucracy. There was a feeling that lack of cooperation prevented aggressive efforts to prevent future terrorist attacks.

The Los Angeles Terrorism Early Warning Group is composed of two dozen local, state and federal agencies, including the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Secret Service and the FBI.

The Union-Tribune first reported on the Maziarz case in October 2007, after it obtained unclassified records from his court-martial.

Maziarz originally was charged with stealing Iraq war souvenirs from a base armory. That investigation evolved into the document-theft case.

He received a 26-month jail sentence. He was released in July after serving less than two years in Camp Pendleton’s brig.

In accepting Maziarz’s guilty plea, Marine judge Lt. Col. Jeffrey Meeks avoided revealing specific contents of the stolen files. Two federal agents attended the plea-agreement sessions to make sure classified details stayed secret.

While sitting recently at a café in Carlsbad, Maziarz explained how officials from the Los Angeles counter-terrorism group used him for years to steal highly sensitive FBI, CIA and immigration files to track and foil terrorist operations.

He was more tight-lipped about classified files known as TIGER documents.

TIGER, or the Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system, is a database developed at the U.S. Census Bureau. It can be customized to identify special demographic centers, such as areas where certain ethnic groups live.

The Union-Tribune asked FBI officials whether any of the files Maziarz stole were were related to this system. They did not respond.

Days after the newspaper made its TIGER inquiry to the bureau, Maziarz said, federal investigators gave him a lie-detector test to see whether he had talked to the media.

Maziarz’s claims about profiling have raised concerns among some Islamic, Arab-American and civil-liberty groups. The organizations’ leaders said his statements underscore their longtime contention that government agencies are violating Americans’ privacy rights with little to no congressional oversight.

The Maziarz case could be “hugely important,” said David Blair-Loy, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

In July, the ACLU filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Defense Department, the FBI, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the National Security Agency and the U.S. Northern Command to flesh out its understanding of the government’s domestic surveillance activities.

“What was in these documents (that Maziarz took) is precisely the question we have been asking. What has the government been doing and who authorized it?” Blair-Loy said.

On the criminal-justice front, the document-theft case involving Maziarz has moved slowly and unexpectedly.

On July 18, the Marine Corps brought charges against Gunnery Sgt. Eric Froboese and Master Sgt. Reinaldo Pagan in connection with it. Pagan is accused of dereliction of duty and violation of orders. Froboese is facing charges of dereliction of duty, orders violations, conspiracy and wrongful transmission of classified information.

Before they were charged, neither of the enlisted Marines had been mentioned in court records related to the Maziarz trial. Maziarz said he is angry that no Marine officer has faced the same legal scrutiny.

“I don’t think the government is interested in really finding out the truth . . . because the implications are too vast and involve too many senior people for them to really pursue it,” he said.

More than 30 interviews with FBI and naval investigators, spanning hundreds of hours over the past two years, have convinced Maziarz that prosecutors plan to pin the national-security breach on those considered least culpable and most vulnerable: the enlisted men.

“If Pagan is getting charged with dereliction of duty, then why not General Conway?” Maziarz said.

He was referring to Gen. James Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps. Conway served as commanding general of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force when Maziarz worked in the intelligence unit and Richards ran it.

A statement from Conway’s office said in part: “Generally speaking, a subordinate who is accused of violating a commander’s orders . . . and has done so without the knowledge or consent of that commander is not really in a position to place any portion of the blame for their own actions upon the commander.”

Federal agents have warned Maziarz that he could be put back behind bars if he violates his plea agreement. While he is cautious, Maziarz said his intention is to set the record straight.

“I have a pretty good memory,” Maziarz said, “and that’s what bothers a lot of people.”

Rick Rogers: (760) 476-8212;