The Justice Department’s highest award was given Wednesday to the department’s attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico and the team responsible for the prosecution of 10 Russian secret agents.
The awards were presented at the department’s annual ceremony at DAR Constitution Hall; 340 department employees were recognized this year.
The team that investigated the Russian agents was presented with the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service for a probe that, according to DOJ officials,”was one of the most complex and successful counterintelligence operations in the modern history of the nation. (Click here for the press release with more than two dozen names of the team members.) The investigation ended in the arrests of 10 Russian secret agents, many of whom were highly-trained deep cover operatives, dispatched by Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service to infiltrate the United States under carefully-constructed false identities. Following the arrests, the Russian operatives were indicted and pleaded guilty, and were exchanged for four men whose freedom was tremendously important to the United States.”
The same award was presented to Anthony P. Garcia, who served with the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs as the DOJ attaché in Mexico. “During his tenure as Attaché, the demands on Mr. Garcia escalated dramatically due to the rise in the power and violence of the Mexican drug cartels and the unprecedented efforts by the U.S. and Mexican governments in response,” department officials said. “Mr. Garcia, who has now returned to his position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois, worked tirelessly to meet these extraordinary demands during a critical time, and showed exceptional leadership in bringing new levels of success in our law enforcement relationship with Mexico.”
Also Wednesday, the Edward H. Levi Award for Outstanding Professionalism and Exemplary Integrity was presented to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller. “Professionalism and integrity are the hallmarks of Mr. Mueller’s character, in matters both large and small, and he has cultivated both traits throughout his long and distinguished career.,” department officials said.
Several groups or people received the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service, including the team that prosecuted convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates. One of those receiving that award was Senior Litigation Counsel William M. Welch, former head of the department’s Public Integrity Section.
Welch’s recognition is a show of solidarity for a department insider who’s recently taken a lot of heat for his high-profile cases.
Welch was the subject of an investigation into his oversight of the botched prosecution of the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) during his tenure as head of the Public Integrity Section. More recently he came under public scrutiny for leading the prosecution of former National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake, accused of leaking information to a reporter. Drake was hit with 10 felony counts but ended up pleading to one misdemeanor as the case collapsed.