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Archive for January, 2009

U.S. Starting to Pour Hundreds of Millions into Mexico To Stop the Violent Expansion of Drug Traffickers

The drug war south of the border is out of control. At a recent law enforcement conference in Southern Calif., law enforcement officers were warned not to cross into Mexico for fun.
By Josh Meyer
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON – The U.S. has begun pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Mexico to help stanch the expansion of drug-fueled violence and corruption that has claimed more than 5,000 lives south of the border this year.
The bloodshed has spread to American cities, even to the heartland, and U.S. officials are realizing that their fight against powerful drug cartels responsible for the carnage has come down to this: Either walk away or support Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s strategy, even with the risk that counter-narcotics intelligence, equipment and training could end up in the hands of cartel bosses.
Both nations agree that the cartels have morphed into transnational crime syndicates that pose an urgent threat to their security and that of the region. Law enforcement agencies from the border to Maine acknowledge that the traffickers have brought a war once dismissed as a foreign affair to the doorstep of local communities. The trail of slayings, kidnappings and other crimes stretches through at least 195 U.S. cities.
For Full Story

Story of Texas Activist Who Worked As FBI Informant During Republican National Convention

By Renee Feltz
Texas Observer

Brandon Darby, a well-known Austin activist fingered as an FBI informant has acknowledged that he provided information leading to the arrest and felony indictment of two Austin men who participated in protests last September at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN.
“The simple truth is that I have chosen to work with the Federal Bureau of investigation [sic],” Brandon Darby said in an open letter he sent this week to friends he has worked with since 2002.
Darby’s activist network stretches from Austin to New Orleans, where he co-founded Common Ground Relief, a grassroots reconstruction effort that drew thousands of volunteers from around the country. In 2004, he helped organize and was arrested during anti-Halliburton protests in Houston. His letter suggests that he disagreed with tactics some members of the Austin Area Affinity Group planned to use to disrupt the Republican Convention. Darby was a member of the group.
For Full Story

Read FBI Affidavit

Read New York Times Version

Enron Exec Free After Serving Less than 2/3 of Sentence

There are many lesson here. Here’s one: It pays to commit a big big financial crime if you cooperate, and do it first.

By Houston Chronicle
HOUSTON — Michael Kopper, a former Enron Corp. executive convicted of helping ex-Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow skim millions of dollars from the energy trader, was released Friday from federal custody after serving less than two-thirds of his sentence.
Kopper, 43, was the first Enron executive to cut a deal, pleading guilty to two conspiracy counts and cooperating with prosecutors pursuing other company officials. In 2006, a federal judge who heard Kopper testify sentenced him to 37 months, compared with the 15-year maximum term he agreed to in his plea.
He was released from a Houston halfway house, where he had been since late October, said Linda Thomas, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Kopper served about 23 months of his sentence, mostly in low-security prisons in Texarkana and Big Spring.
Kopper was Fastow’s top lieutenant and managed daily operations and negotiations for LJM2, a Fastow-controlled partnership the two men used to steal millions from Enron. Prosecutors said Kopper’s assistance was crucial in obtaining charges against Fastow, who also pleaded guilty and is serving a six-year sentence in Oakdale, La.

Feds Gearing Up For Biggest Security Event Ever on Jan. 20

Security issues are nothing new to Washington, which has seen every type of demonstration and gathering possible. Still, this presidential inauguration is being treated differently.

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Authorities are organizing what appears to be the largest security operation ever for an inauguration, bringing in thousands of extra police, agents and troops to handle crowds as President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in.
Security officials are bracing not just for the ceremony and parade Jan. 20 but also for at least 70 concerts, balls and other events surrounding the inauguration. Those include the welcome celebration featuring Obama on Jan. 18 at the Lincoln Memorial, which could draw 500,000 people, according to the D.C. mayor’s office.
“You’ve gone from a one-day event to a four-day event,” said Joseph Persichini Jr., head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which will bring in about 20 percent more employees than usual for the activities.
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Breaking News: NBC Reports that Gov. Bill Richardson Withdrawing Name for Commerce Sec. Because of FBI Probe

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON – New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has withdrawn his nomination as Commerce secretary because of a pending FBI investigation into a major political contributor who landed lucrative state contracts , NBC reported Sunday afternoon.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported that Richardson concluded that the probe would delay his confirmation and he did not want to interfere with the administration’s plans.
The FBI in New Mexico is probing whether  political contributions from CDR Financial of California helped  the company land more than $1.4 million in state contracts.
“Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact,” he said, according to NBC. “But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”
NBC also reported that he said: “I appreciate the confidence President-elect Obama has shown in me, and value our friendship and working partnership. I told him that I am eager to serve in the future in any way he deems useful. And like all Americans, I pray for his success and the success of our beloved country.”
The FBI declined comment Sunday afternoon.
Obama issued a statement in response.
“Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office. It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time. Although we must move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson’s decision, I look forward to his future service to our country and in my administration.”

NBC Report on Gov. Bill Richardson

Businesses Reaching Settlements With Justice Dept. Before New Regime Takes Over

Is the Bush Justice Department going to give a better deal to business? Some appear to think so.

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has reached more than a dozen business-related settlements since the presidential election, with more in the pipeline for January, prompting lawyers and interest groups to assert that companies are seeking more favorable terms before the new administration arrives.
The climate for business settlements could grow more harsh when Obama appointees seize the reins at the Justice Department, corporate lawyers say. They point to statements by Attorney General-designate Eric H. Holder Jr., who told an audience last month that he would expand the focus of federal prosecutors into corporate suites.
A review of 15 agreements involving corporations since early November suggests that much of the alleged misconduct dates back five years or more, provoking questions about why the cases took so long to mature and why resolutions are coming with only weeks left in President Bush’s term.
“What they obviously are trying to do is take advantage of an administration that’s deemed to be more friendly to business,” said Cono R. Namorato, a Washington defense lawyer who ran the Internal Revenue Service’s office of professional responsibility earlier in the Bush administration. “I know of no tax reason for doing it now.”
For Full Story

Mexico Extradites 10 Drug Traffickers to U.S.

ticklethewire.com photo file

ticklethewire.com photo file

The U.S. continues its aggressive campaign against drugs in Mexico, but the killing and trafficking continues. Here’s the latest on the war on drugs.

By Julie Watson
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MEXICO CITY – Mexico sent 10 drug-smuggling suspects to the United States on Wednesday, capping an already record year for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration between the two countries.
Several are accused of being high-ranking members of Mexico’s most powerful drug gangs, including the Gulf and Tijuana-based Arellano-Felix cartels. The suspects will face charges in California, Texas, Florida and Georgia, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said in a news release.
U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza praised the action as another example of President Felipe Calderón’s determination to go after cartels. Since taking office in 2006, Calderón has made it a priority to extradite drug suspects, who previously would operate from their Mexican jail cells.
For Full Story