I'm trying to pull together as many of the details in the new transcripts about how Tommy Kontogiannis has cooperated (I was going to spell it "kooperate") with the government. The information is actually conflicting--Tommy K wants to portray himself as a good American who was just seeking out powerful Congressman to give intelligence to. But the descriptions of the AUSAs and FBI agents of his cooperation in this matter make it sound like it's a limited thing.
Here's K's description of his reasons for bribing Cunningham.
The Court: The only thing I have a question about is it says that you believe Mr. Cunningham was in a position to do you some good. Is that why you were involved in this? You hoped through his official position as a U.S. Congressman that he could advance some personal interest of yours?
The Defendant: It was never personal interest, your Honor. My interest is United States, basically, and he was in a position that I could reach and tell them information that I was gathering from all over the world.
The Court: What were you going to get out of this, Mr. Kontogiannis?
Mr. O'Connell: Can I have a moment, your Honor?
The Court: Yes. My question is, what did you hope to get out of all this?
The Defendant: From the first case to bring as much information as I could to assist us, especially after the 2001 situation. Second, it is good to have a powerful Congressman that if you ever need anything, you can ask him to help you or assist you in something you might need.
The Court: That's really what I am getting at. Did you believe that you were buying influence with someone who was in a position to help you by involving yourself in these things that have been recited today?
The Defendant: Definitely.
I'm going to come back to this passage--it really makes me wonder how many of the rest of the Congressmen on the House Intelligence Committee are getting bribes from people who want to "tell them information that I was gathering from all over the world." Porter Goss, of course, had to step down as DCI because of his ties to Cunningham's corrupt buddies. And Rick Renzi has some legal problems of his own.
Now, Judge Burns describes K as either an informer or someone tied into an intelligence network (or likely, both). Exposure of his cooperation would endanger him and others.
My understanding from yesterday is that if it comes out that he has pled guilty to something, people are automatically going to assume he is cooperating with the government and he is going to be untouchable, and that creates personal danger to him as well as, I am told, the agents that have been working with him.
He repeats this notion the following day, the day of the actual plea.
I am convinced by looking at the information in the context that the FBI agent provides that disclosure of Mr. Kontogiannis's identity as someone cooperating in this would likely jeopardize his safety. And I am likewise convinced that it would jeopardize the safety of others that are involved.
But Burns also speaks of K's involvement as finite, tied to one investigation. And he presses, repeatedly, for some resolution of K's cooperation in the near term.
It's my inclination to open those proceedings, those portions that are subject to being opened as soon as possible so the agent should know that. If they can either conclude that the investigation should take on new facets or that they hit a dry hole and they can conclude it, that should be done at the earliest possible time.
But when the lawyers and FBI agents from New York come to tell Judge Burns what's going on, the cooperation seems much more nebulous. This is all sketchy (this comes from the passage that Burns ordered to be redacted in its entirety). But you can tell from the back and forth between Burns and the (presumably) prosecutor that there are multiple investigations all dealing with criminal wrong-doing.
These [redacted] are in violation of United States laws as far as you can tell.
So the investigations in which you've alluded
in the matters in which the defendant is working
But then, in response to a question that appears to be about how, precisely, K is cooperating, the prosecutor suggests things are not that far advanced as yet (perhaps to make arrests).
we're not at the point, I don't believe, to go ahead and [redacted] but I'm hoping here in the next few months that we'll have enough
And then Burns asks again, how K will be used, and how long it will take. In response, the prosecutor seems to describe an operation that isn't even set up yet, in late April of this year. The prosecutor seems to say that, as long as they continue to get good cooperation from K, they want to continue with the operation.
Prosecutor: We're looking at [redacted] go ahead an implement, and we're going to get that off the ground and running within the next couple weeks. [redacted]
Burns: Do you have an idea, as you stand here today, of how much longer you'll [redacted]
Prosecutor: Sir, I cannot tell you. I do know that the stuff that is going on [redacted]. And as long as [redacted] we'd like to continue gorward.
To which Burns warns the prosecutor that he will have a limited time to work with Kontogiannis.
Get what you can out of this fellow, because you have to give up the ghost here pretty soon.
So here's what I take out of this. Even before his plea bargain, the government suggested that if word of K's plea deal leaked, it would tip off people who would then endanger him and those he was working for. At the same time, the government seemed to set up something--some kind of operation or scam--tied specifically to K, set up after his plea deal. And the government seems to equivocate. At times, they describe K's involvement as finite. At times, they seem to describe him as an ongoing informant.
Perhaps that's why Burns got fed up and ordered the transcripts to be unsealed. Mind you, the Appeals Court is still deciding whether a great number of these redactions will stand. In other words, the government may have succeeded in obscuring K's activities after the fact, once Burns demanded the transcripts be unsealed (previously, the SD AUSAs had agreed there would be no problem with unsealing the transcripts, which is why Burns got so pissed to be told after the fact they would have to remain sealed). But I don't see how Michael's case goes to trial with this stuff redacted. While I have every expectation that he knows precisely how K is cooperating, he has a right to demand the government give him more details than he's gotten.