June 12, 2006

Ex-California intelligence chief claims demotion was retaliation

by Jeremiah Marquez
A high-ranking California law enforcement official said in a personnel complaint that he was demoted after questioning the legality of federal and state intelligence-gathering methods, but authorities dispute the claims.

Edward Manavian said in the document obtained by The Associated Press that he was ousted as chief of criminal intelligence for the California Department of Justice in February for not cooperating with state and federal homeland security officials on intelligence sharing.

Manavian was chairman of the executive board of the Joint Regional Information Exchange System, a national intelligence network of major state and local law-enforcement agencies.

The board pulled out of talks to share intelligence with the federal Department of Homeland Security last year because of Manavian's concerns that sharing criminal information in the department's system would violate privacy laws, according to his complaint filed with the state Personnel Board in April.

A spokesman for the state Justice Department declined to comment on Manavian's complaint, which accuses Attorney General Bill Lockyer and other officials of retaliation.

"We're confident that when all the facts are out, it will become clear that the complaint misrepresents and grossly distorts the facts," spokesman Tom Dresslar said.

Chris Bertelli, a state homeland security spokesman, also denied Manavian's allegations.

Manavian's decision to break off relations with DHS, Bertelli said, was based on an "erroneous understanding" of the law.

Manavian couldn't be reached for comment and his attorney, Charles Crawford, did not return a phone call.

Among other things Manavian claims led to his demotion:

* He expressed concerns about an idea he said was floated by a state homeland security official to combat Muslim radicalization in state prisons by compiling a list of inmates who attended Muslim services and bugging the offices of imams who work in prisons. Office of Homeland Security officials said no OHS employee raised the idea, but they don't deny it came up in a meeting of officials from several state agencies.

* His decision to pull out of an FBI operation to infiltrate the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, two underground environmental groups, by planting a state DOJ agent in their meetings on a university campus. An FBI spokeswoman said the bureau "strongly questions" Manavian's allegations, but declined to comment further. The FBI has successfully infiltrated the ELF in the past.

Manavian was demoted to his previous post, assistant chief in the narcotics bureau. Dresslar said Manavian has since retired. He is seeking his job back, almost $1.5 million in damages and attorney fees, among other things.


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