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Archive for January, 2009

Secret Service to Unveil Hybrid Limo for Obama

Good to see there’s some sense of energy conservation going on.

By Mike M. Ahlers and Eric Marrapodi
CNN
WASHINGTON
— As a candidate, Barack Obama promoted hybrid cars.
As president, he’ll be handed the keys to one. Sort of.
Shortly after taking the oath of office, Obama will climb into the Mother of All Hybrids — part car, part truck and, from the looks of it, part tank.
In keeping with recent tradition, the Secret Service will place a brand-new presidential limousine into service January 20 to drive the new president on the 2-mile jaunt down Pennsylvania Avenue during the inaugural parade.
Already, spy photos of the limo — with patches of gray primer — have leaked out. And already, the reviews:
“Ugly as sin,” says one car enthusiast on an auto Web site. “Can’t we make a hotter ride for our pres?”
For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Obama Likely to Address U.S. Atty. Posts Individually

The last thing the Obama administration wants to do is repeat how the Bush folks handled U.S. Attorney hirings and firings.

Joe Palazzolo
Legal Times
WASHINGTON –In a meeting last month with Barack Obama’s transition staff, representatives of the nation’s top prosecutors caught a glimpse of the president-elect’s thinking on the politically fraught issue of what to do with the the current 93 U.S. Attorneys.
“[The president-elect] is going to be smart and be cautious. My gut feeling is it won’t be like it was in 1993,” said U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of Texas’ Western District, a member of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys. On Dec. 11, Sutton and 15 other members of the committee met with Obama’s DOJ transition chief, David Ogden, and his staff at the Justice Department to advise them on law enforcement issues and to point out areas the committee believes require special attention.
At the meeting, Ogden briefly discussed the U.S. Attorney issue, though he said he had had no role in deciding who stays and who goes, according to one committee member. Ogden, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, is reportedly the leading candidate for the Justice Department’s No. 2 spot.
Sutton declined to characterize Ogden’s comments but said he left the meeting with the impression that the president-elect will address the U.S. Attorneys individually.
For Full Story

Blue Uniforms for TSA officers Getting Under Their Skin

Some of these folks look irritated enough just doing their job. Do they need this?

By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — The new blue uniforms issued to Transportation Security Administration officers at hundreds of airports nationwide may have a snazzy look, but they have become a major irritant for some of those employees.
The new uniforms are causing rashes and other irritations among transportation security officers who screen passengers at airports, according to the union representing the workers.
“We’re hearing from hundreds of TSOs that this is an issue,” said Emily Ryan, a spokeswoman for the American Federation of Government Employees. Most of the complaints have been for skin rashes, but they have also included runny or bloody noses, lightheadeness, red eyes, and swollen and cracked lips, union officials say.
For Full Story

ABC’s ‘Homeland Security USA’ Show a Bomb

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — I just finished watching the first episode of ABC’s “Homeland Security USA” and I can honestly say the best thing about it was the Domino’s Pizza commercial about its new baked submarine sandwiches.
Simply put: ABC deserves a D.
The show falls flat.  Sure there’s some drugs seized and some illegal immigrants busted. But there’s just not that much to it.
At one point, cameras roll and  border agents at the San Ysidro checkpoint at the California -Mexico border draw guns on a car. They think they may have an armed and dangerous man. A woman gets out the car, kneels on the ground, puts her hands behind her head. Her husband eventually gets out of the car. She tells the officers they always mistake her husband for someone else. Guess what. She’s right. They’re wrong. Ooops.
Then there’s “Nora” the belly dancer from Switzerland who gets interrogated at LAX airport. She’s come to America to belly dance at local restaurants. But she doesn’t have working papers. Officers interrogate her.  What are your intentions? Do you realize you don’t have working papers? And oh yes: Would you like a cheeseburger or would you prefer a cup of noodles?
The show is between 8 and 9 p.m. every Tuesday. So are some much better shows: “House” and “The Daily Show” and “The Stephen Colbert Show”. And oh yes, NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”, which I hate to say, at least at this point, may be a more befitting name for this ABC show.
And now about those baked submarine sandwiches….
Read  Review by Tom Shales of the Washington Post

TSA and Jet Blue Pay $240,000 To Man Who Was Prevented From Boarding Because He Wouldn’t Cover Up Arabic on T-shirt

The questionable judgment of TSA and the airlines is costing money.

By The Associated Press
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union said Monday JetBlue Airways Corp. and the Transportation Security Administration paid $240,000 to a man who claimed he was discriminated against based on his ethnicity and Arabic writing on his T-shirt.
Raed Jarrar alleged that the TSA and JetBlue officials prevented him from boarding a flight out of New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in August 2006 until he agreed to cover his shirt, which read “We Will Not Be Silent” in English and Arabic. Jarrar also claimed JetBlue eventually allowed him on the flight, but then made him sit at the back of the plane.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Jarrar’s behalf in August 2007.
A JetBlue spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment on the settlement.
TSA and JetBlue agreed to settle the case for $240,000 late last month and delivered the settlement to Jarrar on Friday, the ACLU said.
For Full Story

Ronald Ruecker to Head FBI’s Office of Law Enforcement Coordination

Ronald C. Ruecker has been named the Assistant Director of the FBI’s Office of Law Enforcement Coordination (OLEC).
He replaces Louis F. Quijas, who retired to take a position in private industry, the FBI said.
Prior to taking his new post, Ruecker was the Director of Public Safety for the City of Sherwood, Oregon, the FBI said. He is also the former President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and was also with the Oregon State Police for 31 years, and ended his reign there as superintendent, the FBI said.
“Mr. Ruecker is a highly respected law enforcement leader who brings a wealth of experience and a record of accomplishment to the FBI,” said FBI Director Robert Mueller III in a statement. “He will be a valuable asset in our continuing efforts to foster cooperation and strengthen relationships with our law enforcement partners.”

Griffin Bell’s Contributions to Federal Criminal Justice

I saw Griffin Bell’s name every morning for almost three decades when I entered my office in the Detroit U. S. Attorney’s Office. His signature was on the DOJ certificate which hung behind my desk. His death this week, at age 90, brings to mind subjects like civility and the gradual approach to solving problems and making improvements, subjects which get scant attention in most prosecutors’ offices.

Griffin Bell told the 1977 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination as Attorney General that he had integrated more schools than any other judge. He accomplished this on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals during a very difficult era of American civil rights by gradually implementing pragmatic plans which moved the South to a new educational system. His detractors said that this approach defied Brown v. Board of Education’s order to integrate “with all deliberate speed.” But few of them lived with the tens of thousands of angry Southerners who feared that equality of opportunity for African American children would doom a way of life for the majority. Griffin Bell’s civil and courtly gradualism made it possible for men like Barack Obama and Eric Holder to hold leadership positions thirty years later.

In the Justice Department, Bell brought this same incremental approach to a department desperately in need of both image rehabilitation and modernization. It has always been a challenge for the Attorney General to set a course which reconciles its dual, and often bipolar, responsibilities, political and nonpolitical. Advising the President, vetting judicial nominees, proposing legislation-all of these functions and more require the Department to be immersed in the political circus. But increasingly in the last half of the 20th Century, more was expected of the country’s legal department. People expected fair adjudicative procedures and policies and guaranteed independent enforcement of its laws free of personal, partisan, or popular bias. Ironically, it was the reaction to the Watergate incident, Saturday Night Massacre and criminality of John Mitchell which defined how important this principle of de-politicization had become.

Justice Department historians, if there are any, will record the 1970s as an important time in this progression, as well as its modernization to meet the needs of a more complex system of law enforcement. The mission of federal prosecutors and agents was beginning to include proactive cases and methods to go along with their traditional reactive staples such as buy-bust drug cases, bank robberies and customs seizures. These new cases would require better technology, specialized prosecutors and investigators, and more nuanced criminal laws. Griffin Bell’s policies to promote these objectives would gain him no headlines and are hardly discernible looking back 30 years later. But they laid the groundwork for the complex work of the 21st Century Justice Department.

The other principle that Griffin Bell stands for is the emphasis on civility and ethical obligations. He reminded us in the U. S. Attorney’s Office of these subjects when he visited Detroit in 1978. America has always been schizoid about expectations for its prosecutors. On the one hand, we must be hard-nosed, tough zealots advocating the longest sentence and the draconian result. But we are also expected to be fair, even merciful, and most of all, advocate a just resolution, even if contrary to “winning” a case. Griffin Bell could have penned the instruction commonly given by trial judges to juries in federal criminal trials at the close of the evidence, an instruction which admittedly causes Assistant U. S. Attorneys to wince occasionally: The jury need not be concerned with whether the government wins or loses the case because the government always wins when justice is done.

Justice Cardozo in a previous century explained that justice is a concept which is never finished but is always reproducing itself, incrementally, generation after generation in ever changing forms. Griffin Bell grasped this concept like few others in his generation and, in doing so, made an important contribution to the development of the rule of law in this country.

By Ross Parker

Unsealed FBI Affidavit Provides More Gruesome Details in Blackwater Guard Killings in Iraq

By Allan Lengel
Ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON – An FBI affidavit unsealed Monday provides a few new details of gruesome allegations against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards charged in the 2007  shootings in Baghdad that left at least 14 Iraqi civilians dead and 20 wounded.
Washington FBI agent John M. Patarini , in a 3-page affidavit, wrote that witnesses reported that a convoy of four “heavily armored Blackwater vehicles entered the Nisur Square traffic circle just outside the International Zone in western Baghdad around noon on Sept. 16, 2007 and positioned their vehicles in a manner to stop the flow of civilian traffic from all directions.” The four vehicles were occupied by a total of 19 Blackwater Independent contractors.
While at the circle, according to witnesses, “one or more of the turret gunners in the Blackwater vehicles opened fire into a small white Kia sedan that had approached the intersection from the south, fatally wounding the driver,” the affidavit said.
“Heavy machine gunfire continued from the Blackwater convoy directed at the white Kia Sedan and other vehicles in the traffic lanes south of the circle and eventually toward unarmed civilians attempting to run to safety.”
“The witnesses also observed the convoy fired several grenades into civilian vehicles and over the fences of a nearby middle school. The white Kia sedan burst into flames and the two occupants of the vehicles were killed,” the affidavit said.
“As the convoy departed from the intersection, the witnesses observed the Blackwater independent contractors continue to fire at pedestrians to the east of the traffic circle, and at a red bus and unarmed civilians to the west of the circle. As the convoy proceeded back to the International Zone on a road to the north of the circle, other eyewitnesses observed members o f the convoy open fire again into the rooftops, windshields, and trunks of three vehicles, wounded at least three other civilians,” the affidavit said.

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