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Archive for July 18th, 2011

Mexican Drug Cartel Figures Linked to Gun Smuggling Were Paid FBI Informants

By Richard A. Serrano
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – Congressional investigators probing the controversial “Fast and Furious” anti-gun-trafficking operation on the border with Mexico believe at least six Mexican drug cartel figures involved in gun smuggling also were paid FBI informants, officials said Saturday.

The investigators have asked the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration for details about the alleged informants, as well as why agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which ran the Fast and Furious operation, were not told about them.

The development raises further doubts about the now-shuttered program, which was created in November 2009 in an effort to track guns across the border and unravel the cartels’ gun smuggling networks. The gun tracing largely failed, however, and hundreds of weapons purchased in U.S. shops later were found at crime scenes in Mexico.

To read fulls story click here.

Republicans Could Slow Quick Extension for FBI Dir. Mueller

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller/fbi file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Seldom is anything in the political process simple in Washington. In fact, the New York Times reports that extending FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III’s 10-year term for two more years — considered a slam dunk —  may not go as smoothly as had hoped.

The New York Times reports that some Republicans have thrown up some roadblocks to a swift approval — even though the stoic Mueller enjoys bi-partisan support and is highly respected on Capitol Hill. The Times reported that there’s even an outside chance Mueller might have to temporarily step aside next month.

The Times pointed out that Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok) wanted the White House to nominate Mueller to a special term, subject to Senate confirmation. The White House had hoped to accomplish the extension simply through one-time legislation that would extend the director’s term two years. It had hoped to skip any confirmation process.

But the Times reported that the White House quietly agreed last week to Coburn’s approach.

Plus,  Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sent a four-page letter to Mueller last week, saying he wanted to meet and get questions answered. That could delay matters as well.

Mueller’s last day was thought to be Sept. 3. But the White House legal counsel has concluded that it’s actually Aug. 2 because  President George W. Bush signed his appointment on Aug. 3, 2001, the Times reported  Coincidentally, the government will hit a debt  Aug. 2, the Times pointed out.

“Director Mueller has resounding bipartisan support, and our hope is that the Congress will act as soon as possible to ensure that Director Mueller can continue to lead the F.B.I. in its important national security mission,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, according to the Times.

The Times reported that an aided to Sen. Paul said the senator only wanted answers and did not intend to hold up the process until the 11th hour.

To read more click here.

LA Times Editorial: Obama Admin. Takes Concrete Step Toward Curbing Gun Flow to Mexico

atf file photo

By The Los Angeles Times Editorial Page

The Obama administration took a concrete step toward curbing the flow of semiautomatic weapons to Mexico last week when it adopted a new regulation mandating the reporting of multiple sales of long guns to federal authorities. Under the regulation, some 8,500 licensed gun shops in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas will be required to inform the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when a customer buys more than one semiautomatic that is .22 caliber or greater within a five-day period. The regulation is a small but significant tool that could help federal authorities keep weapons sold in the United States out of the hands of Mexican gangs and drug cartels. Rather than tracing an AK-47 after it has been recovered from a crime scene, ATF agents may be able to intervene before the weapon is smuggled across the border. The National Rifle Assn. is, not surprisingly, denouncing the modest rule as encroaching on Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights; in fact, it is already threatening to sue the federal government, contending that only Congress can impose such rules. To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

The Clemens Case; Beware of the Hunt for Big Game

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

When you go hunting for big game — particularly dangerous targets — you better be prepared. You also better be a good aim.

Screw up and it can cost you — particularly if it’s a lion or a tiger or some other creature that can devour you.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. went hunting for big game the other day by prosecuting major league baseball legend Roger Clemens, who was accused of lying to Congress about using performance enhancing drugs. The hunter in this case got devoured — not so much by the major game it was hunting — but by itself.

On Thursday, on the second day of testimony, it screwed up big time by mistakenly presenting congressional testimony that referenced the wife of former pitcher Andy Pettitte, a friend and former teammate of Clemens’s. Pettitte had told his wife that Clemens had taken the performance enhancing drugs. Clemens claimed he was mistaken.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton had ruled earlier that the prosecution could not reference the wife. Walton said the wife repeating the hearsay would be unfair to Clemens at trial.

So a highly annoyed Walton declared a mistrial. A Sept. 2 hearing is set to determine whether the government will get a second shot.

Either way, it’s a major major embarrassment for  the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Justice Department.  The two prosecutors on the case — Steven Durham and Daniel Butler — are both very able, seasoned and well respected attorneys. The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not screw up by assigning them to the case.  Nonetheless, the prosecutors screwed up.

The pain for them is unimaginable — almost  like dropping the ball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning  during the seventh game of the world series, with bases loaded — and you’re up by 1 run. Painful. You want to hide in your room. You want to knock back a few shots of single malt Scotch or tequila. And that’s just for breakfast.

There’s nothing  to do now but try and salvage the case and figure out why the lapse in judgment. There’s no excuses here.

Alan M. Gershel, a professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan and former chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 20 years, said the misstep “to say the least is certainly an embarrassment.”

Gerhsel said the judge could rule against a new trial. That being said, Gershel said it may help the prosecution, when seeking a new trial, that the misstep appeared to be inadvertent.

So we’ll see what the judge decides in the case that some critics, frankly, thought should never had gone to trial anyways.

On the upside, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Ted Stevens case when prosecutors from the Justice Department won the case, but had the conviction thrown out because they withheld key evidence from the defense.  That case was a plain old mess and the prosecutors needed to pay for that.

Whatever, this is just another one of those embarrassments the Justice Department could do without.

P.S. Beware of the hunt for the big game.