In a September 15, 2016, ceremony at Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, DC, four ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents were among those honored with the FBI Director’s Award for Excellence.
Presided over by FBI Director James Comey, this year’s event marked the 25th annual ceremony honoring not only Bureau employees, but also recognizing many outstanding partnerships throughout the global law enforcement community.
Special Agent Dean Fittz received an Outstanding Counterintelligence Investigation award for his role in a joint ICE, FBI, and Department of Commerce (DOC) investigation of a large telecommunications company that allegedly exported U.S. manufactured equipment to Iran in violation of the Iranian Transaction and Sanctions Regulations and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The exported equipment was allegedly designed to provide the Iranian government with advanced surveillance platforms to monitor the internet and cellular communications of persons in Iran. The investigation remains ongoing, and DOC has proposed a civil penalty of $1-12 billion for export violations could be assessed.
Special Agent Michael Blane received an award for Excellence in International Operations for his work with the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force’s investigation into the December 2000 murder of William Bultemeier, a United States Department of Defense employee in Niamey, Niger. The investigation was initiated in 2012, and following an indictment from the Eastern District of New York and subsequent issuance of an Interpol Red notice in September 2013, Alhassane Ould Mohamed was arrested in 2014 and extradited to the United States. With ties to known terrorist organizations, Mohamed pled guilty to the murder of Mr. Bultemeier and sentenced to 25 years in prison and immediate removal from the United States at the completion of his sentence.
Special Agents Gregory Ruehle and James Shepherd received awards for Outstanding Technical Advancement for their work with the FBI Seattle Field Office's Tacoma Joint Terrorism Task Force (TJTTF) which, during the summer of 2015 led to a breakthrough in encryption technology which allowed the TJTTF to collect and decrypt real time encrypted messages sent by known terrorists. The agents’ collaborative thinking and innovative development helped create new technologies and techniques to intercept, collect, decrypt, and collect messages and content from phone and computer communication applications. The techniques developed by the collaborative efforts of these investigators are now being used throughout the various Joint Terrorism Task Forces across the United States, have been shared with our domestic intelligence partners, and have provided critical information against high threat international terrorist organizations and individuals throughout the world.