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Archive for February, 2009

Mexico’s Drug Violence is Arizona’s Headache Too

It seems for far too long the U.S. has failed to do enough to keep the drug violence in Mexico from spilling over into the U.S. states like Texas, Calif. and Arizona. The time has come to do something.

By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
New York Times
PHOENIX – The raging drug war among cartels in Mexico and their push to expand operations in the United States has led to a wave of kidnappings, shootings and home invasions in Arizona, state and federal officials said at a legislative hearing on Monday.

The drug trade has long brought violence to the state, which serves as a hub as illicit drugs, like cocaine and marijuana, and illegal immigrants are smuggled to the rest of the nation.
For Full Story

More than 800 Guns Seized at U.S. Airport Checkpoints Last Year

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — Who in their right mind brings a gun to the airport these days?

Well, in this post-Sept. 11 era, despite heightened airport security, the number of firearms seized at U.S. airport checkpoints jumped to 833 in 2008, up nearly 10 percent from a year ago, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

The 2008 figure was down from 915 in 2006, but nonetheless perplexing, said  TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis. The figures were compiled at the request of ticklethewire.com.

“We’ve spent the last seven years trying to educate passengers on what items are prohibited and allowed at the checkpoints,” Davis said.  “Certainly guns loaded or unloaded seems rather obvious to us. That is perplexing.”

Davis said a frequent excuse from gun owners, particularly some hunters, is that they forgot the weapon was in their bag.

“One would think a responsible gun owner would know where a firearm is at,” she said.

In another key category, the TSA reported that the number of suspicious behavior arrests at the airports more than doubled from 384 in 2007 to 851 last year.

Davis attributed the spike to TSA’s expanded Behavior Detection Program, where TSA security looks for psychological signs that someone is “basically hiding something or fears discovery.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Biker Charged in Buffalo With Sending Threatening Text Messages

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
It’s probably beyond dispute that Ronald Blair, a New York state motorcycle gang member, was not the most artful of text messagers.

For example, court records say on Feb. 11 at 4:38 a.m., he wrote to the brother of a rival biker: “I’m coming over with a 2 club bros. want to know where jimmigy lives. bottom line. f—.”

Later in the day he wrote: “Tell him to call a doctor.boy.” and “Sorr   y to be you. f—.”

What is in dispute is how menacing those messages were.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo has filed a four-count indictment charging Blair, 39,of the Kingsmen motorcycle club, with conveying a “threat to injure” through text messages.

The Buffalo News quoted his lawyer as saying the feds “should be ashamed of prosecuting” such a case.

Read Biker Indictment

DEA Informant Who Penetrated Colombian Drug Cartel Says Agency Didn’t Provide Enough Protection

Going undercover is always dangerous work. Going undercover to penetrate a Colombian drug cartel is really really dangerous. A DEA informant says she put her life on the line and the DEA didn’t do enough to protect her. Does she have a legit beef? Jurors may decide.

By LESLEY CLARK
Miami Herald
MIAMI — In court documents she’s referred to as the Princess, with a capital ”P.” But her story reads more like Mata Hari infiltrating the Colombian drug cartel.

In federal court documents, a Palm Beach County woman — the ex-wife of two convicted drug dealers — outlines a life of intrigue, adventure and considerable danger as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. For more than three years, she traveled the world for the Fort Lauderdale DEA office, earning a $10,000-a-month ”salary” and posing as “an affluent money launderer.”

She raked in as much as $1.85 million from the agency, according to documents in a 1997 lawsuit she filed against the agency in U.S. Court of Federal Claims. And now, after a decade of legal wrangling and a trial, the Princess may be in line for more.

A federal judge ruled that the DEA failed to protect confidential informant SGS-92-X003 — aka the Princess — when it dispatched her to Colombia in 1995 at the height of the country’s brutal drug war.

”The evidence is uncontroverted that the head of [the] DEA’s Fort Lauderdale Office, who supervised the Princess, sent her on this undercover operation without advising DEA Headquarters or the Colombian attaché,” Judge Mary Ellen Coster Williams wrote in a Feb. 9 opinion that was unsealed after classified information was removed.

”During this mission,” Coster Williams wrote, “the Princess was captured by a guerrilla organization, transported in the trunk of a car, and held for over three months in a windowless, dirt floor room where she slept on a straw mattress.”

In her lawsuit, the Princess sought more than $33 million. Next step: determining whether the woman was damaged by the agency’s negligence, and if so, how much the DEA should pay.

For Full Story

To Read Lawsuit

Feds File Charges in Baltimore’s Biggest Coke Bust Near a Street of Hope

In this hard-bitten town, in the shadow of the nation’s capital, authorities recently made what they’re calling their biggest coke bust in the city’s history. The bust was notable not only for its quantity, but its location.

By Van Smith
Baltimore City Paper
BALTIMORE — Trenell David Murphy, a 33-year-old Baltimore man, was charged in federal court on Feb. 20 in connection with what has been touted by the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) as the biggest coke bust in its history.
The location of the bust, on the 3000 block of Presstman Street in West Baltimore, is one block west of Kevin Liles Drive, so named in 2005 by then-mayor Martin O’Malley to honor Liles, the executive vice president of Warner Music Group. Liles, who grew up on the 2900 block of Presstman Street, is promoted as a model of success for youngsters growing up on the hard streets of Baltimore.

For Full Story

FBI Rounds Up 48 Teen Prostitutes in Nationwide Sweep

This is one of the sadder segments of society we only hear about from time to time. The FBI rounded up 48 suspected teenage prostitutes. The question is: How many more are out there?

By DEVLIN BARRETT
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – The FBI has rescued 48 suspected teenage prostitutes, some as young as 13 years old, in a nationwide sweep to remove kids from the illegal sex trade and punish their accused pimps.

Over a three-night initiative called Operation Cross Country, federal agents working with local law enforcement also arrested more than 571 suspects on a variety of federal and state prostitution-related charges, the bureau said.

The teenage prostitutes found in the investigation ranged in age from 13 to 17. In Ohio, about 18 adults were arrested in Toledo and Lima, said FBI spokesman Scott Wilson in Cleveland.

“We may not be able to return their innocence but we can remove them from this cycle of abuse and violence,” said FBI Director Robert Mueller.

For Full Story

FBI Director Mueller Invokes Name of Hockey Great Gretzky in Terrorism Speech

By Allan Lengel
tickelthewire.com
WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III invoked the name of hockey great Wayne Gretzky during a speech on terrorism Monday before the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Hockey great Wayne Gretzky was once asked how he consistently managed to be at the right place on the ice at the right time,” he said, according a text of the speech. “He said that while some players skate to where the puck has been, he skates to where the puck will be.”
“The same is true for those of us in the FBI. We need to know where the threat is moving, and we need to get there first.”

Mueller also said “our primary threat continues to come from the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. But we are seeing persistent activity elsewhere from the Maghreb and the Sahei to Yemen.”

He said world events seem to have a “ripple effect” around the globe.

“The fall of Communism opened the door to a virtual army of cyber thieves. The integration of cultures around the world has facilitated state-sponsored espionage, a thriving child pornography market, as well as heightened gang activity.”

To Read Full Text

Mueller Says a Militant in Somalia Attacks Adopted Extremist Beliefs in U.S. (N.Y. Times)

Houston Fed Judge Pleads Guilty to Obstruction of Justice

Judge Samuel Kent/official photo

Judge Samuel Kent/official photo

Sometimes when you’re guilty it’s best to grab a plea rather than go through an embarrassing trial that will end with a guilty verdict anyways. Judge Sam Kent had probably seen enough trials to figure that one out.

By MARY FLOOD
Houston Chronicle
HOUSTON — U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice today and retired from the bench, avoiding a trial on that charge and five others accusing him of sexually abusing two female employees.

Kent was scheduled to see a jury selected this morning for his trial on all six felony counts.

Few federal judges ever go to trial, but his would have been the first in which a federal judge was accused of sexual charges.

“Judge Kent believes that this settlement is in the best interest of all involved,” his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said after this morning’s hearing.

“A trial would have been long, embarrassing and difficult for all involved,” DeGuerin added. He said Kent has retired from the bench.

Kent faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge. Prosecutors have suggested he be sentenced to three years in prison, but the judge is not bound by that recommendation.

For Full Story