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Archive for February, 2009

Downsizing? Not Here – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Has 11,000 Jobs

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — Recession? Layoffs? Downsizing?
Not here.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection became the latest federal law enforcement agency to announce a  major hiring campaign. It  said it hopes to fill about 11,000 law enforcement and support jobs this year.
Over the weekend, the agency  hosted open houses at 15 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
The FBI recently announced a drive to hire about 2,100 non-agent jobs and about 850 special agent positions.

Latest DNA Tests Could Prove Trouble For Pitching Great Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens

Baseball star Roger Clemens could often be trusted on the mound to do great things. But the latest DNA tests may renew a big question: Can he be trusted to tell the truth?

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Scientific tests have linked Roger Clemens’s DNA to blood in syringes that a personal trainer says he used to inject the former star pitcher with performance-enhancing drugs, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
The DNA results, which are preliminary and subject to verification tests, could prove critical if prosecutors seek an indictment of Clemens on charges that he lied about the use of steroids, according to the sources.
Clemens told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last year that he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs.
For Full Story

New Atty. Gen. Holder Could Release Secret Memos on Interrogations, Warrantless Wiretaps

As Atty. Gen. Eric. H. Holder Jr. takes over, we may see some of the secret and controversial actions of the Bush Justice Department that will provide more insights to what happened in the past eight years.

By Jeff Stein
Spy Talk
WASHINGTON — “Far more secret memos” on hard interrogations, detention and warrantless wiretapping programs have been discovered, most originating in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), according to a new report.
And Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., confirmed Monday, has indicated that a number of them may be made public.
The list of the more than three dozen still highly classified documents was assembled by Pro Publica, an independent public interest journalism organization founded in 2007 by former Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger.
“The Bush administration’s controversial policies on detentions, interrogations and warrantless wiretapping were underpinned by legal memoranda,” write Pro Publica reporters Dan Nguyen and Christopher Weaver. “While some of those memos have been released (primarily as a result of ACLU lawsuits), the former administration kept far more memos secret than has been previously understood. At least three dozen by our count.”
For Full Story

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

U.S. Border Patrol Orders Investgation Into Allegations of Arrest Quotas

Quotas are seldom a good idea, particularly in law enforcement.

By AMY TAXIN
Associated Press Writer
SANTA ANA, Calif. — The U.S. Border Patrol on Monday ordered an investigation of allegations by agents in Southern California that they were given arrest quotas and threatened with punishment if they failed to meet them.
Jeffrey Calhoon, El Centro’s chief patrol agent, said he learned the patrol agent in charge of the agency’s Riverside station some 100 miles north of the Mexican border gave agents numerical goals for how many suspected illegal immigrants they should arrest in January.
Calhoon says he has ordered a probe into whether agents were told they would be punished if they failed to meet this target.
“If there is some threatening behavior, we’re not going to tolerate it,” Calhoon said.
The probe comes after Border Patrol agents in Riverside said they were ordered to arrest at least 150 suspected illegal immigrants in January or faced having their work shifts changed.

No one has been suspended during the probe, said Richard Velez, an agency spokesman.

A.G. Holder Recruiting from Blue Chip firms and the Old Clinton Justice Dept.

David Ogden

David Ogden

The recruits have impressive backgrounds. But is it better to dip back into the past for talent or find fresh talent?

By David Ingram and Joe Palazzolo
Legal Times
WASHINGTON — Eric Holder Jr. and David Ogden, two men who have split their time since the mid-1990s between Main Justice and Big Law, are drawing on that experience to recruit their top assistants.
They’re preparing to surround themselves with lawyers from Covington & Burling and from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr-their respective firms for the last eight years-as well as from the ranks of the Clinton-era Department of Justice.
Justice officials say that Holder, whose nomination to be attorney general is scheduled for a Senate vote today, has chosen Kevin Ohlson as his chief of staff. Ohlson, who is currently the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, served as Holder’s chief of staff when he was deputy attorney general.
Stuart Delery is Ogden’s pick for chief of staff if Ogden is confirmed as deputy attorney general, according to the Justice Department. A Wilmer alum, Delery specializes in securities litigation. He represented the special investigative committees convened by the boards at both Enron and Worldcom. He was also on the team of Wilmer lawyers that represented the University of Michigan in the high-profile Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the consideration of race as a factor in admissions.

For Full Story

Mexican Cartels Keep Finding Ways to Get Marijuana Over the Borders

As long as there’s a demand, the drug cartels will find innovative ways to get the drugs into the U.S. Here’s the latest example of that.
TUCSON — Drug smugglers parked a car transport trailer against the Mexican side of the border one day in December, dropped a ramp over the security fence, and drove two pickup trucks filled with marijuana onto Arizona soil.
As Border Patrol agents gave chase, a third truck appeared on the Mexican side and gunmen sprayed machine-gun fire over the fence at the agents. Smugglers in the first vehicles torched one truck and abandoned the other, with $1 million worth of marijuana still in the truck bed. Then they vaulted back over the barrier into Mexico’s Sonora state.
Despite huge enforcement actions on both sides of the Southwest border, the Mexican marijuana trade is more robust — and brazen — than ever, law enforcement officials say. Mexican drug cartels routinely transported industrial-size loads of marijuana in 2008, excavating new tunnels and adopting tactics like ramp-assisted smuggling to get their cargoes across undetected.
But these are not the only new tactics: the cartels are also increasingly planting marijuana crops inside the United States in a major strategy shift to avoid the border altogether, officials said. Last year, drug enforcement authorities confiscated record amounts of high potency plants from Miami to San Diego, and even from vineyards leased by cartels in Washington State. Mexican drug traffickers have also moved into hydroponic marijuana production — cannabis grown indoors without soil and nourished with sunlamps — challenging Asian networks and smaller, individual growers here.
For Full Story

Two Ex-FBI Agents Say the Agency Should Have Done More to Head Off Mortgage Fraud Disaster

Sure the FBI saw this mortgage mess way back when. And sure it was clear it didn’t have enough resources to deal with it. But back then it wasn’t a disaster. Now it is. And that’s our nature: we seldom address things until they become a crisis. Now we’ve got us a real crisis. Now the FBI wants more resources to deal with it all.

By PAUL SHUKOVSKY
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
SEATTLE — The FBI was aware for years of “pervasive and growing” fraud in the mortgage industry that eventually contributed to America’s financial meltdown, but did not take definitive action to stop it.
“It is clear that we had good intelligence on the mortgage-fraud schemes, the corrupt attorneys, the corrupt appraisers, the insider schemes,” said a recently retired, high FBI official. Another retired top FBI official confirmed that such intelligence went back to 2002.
The problem, according to the two FBI retirees and several other current and former bureau colleagues, is that the bureau was stretched so thin that no one noticed when those lenders began packaging bad mortgages into bad securities.
“We knew that the mortgage-brokerage industry was corrupt,” the first of the retired FBI officials told the Seattle P-I. “Where we would have gotten a sense of what was really going on was the point where the mortgage was sold knowing that it was a piece of dung and it would be turned into a security. But the agents with the expertise had been diverted to counterterrorism.”
For Full Story

Breaking News: Eric Holder Jr. Confirmed 75-21 as New Atty. General

Eric Holder Jr.

Eric Holder Jr.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — It’s official.
The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Eric. H. Holder Jr. Monday night as the 82nd  Attorney General of United States, replacing Michael Mukasey who was tasked with repairing the damaged reputation of the department.
The vote was 75-21.
Holder,  a well-liked figure in Washington,  becomes the first black Attorney General.  He faced some tough questioning last month about pardons under the Clinton administration during confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
But in the end, the committee voted 17-2 to confirm him.
Before Monday’s full Senate vote, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) voiced opposition to the confirmation because of Holder’s pro-gun control views.  Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) said he didn’t agree with all of Holders’ beliefs, but said he supported him.
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a big Holdler supporter,  voiced sharp criticism of former A.G. Alberto Gonzalez  while saying that no “nomination for attorney general fills me with greater pride than this one.”