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Archive for December, 2009

5 Bank Heists Later, Calif. FBI Still Hunting for the “Geezer Bandit”

"Geezer Bandit"/fbi photo
“Geezer Bandit”/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Five bank robberies and 3 ½ months later, the FBI in San Diego is still hunting for an elusive, elderly mystery man in his 70s dubbed the “Geezer Bandit.”

“It’s unusual for someone this age to be robbing banks,” Darrell Foxworth, an FBI spokesman in San Diego said Wednesday. “Normally our bank robbers are 18 to 45 and male.”

Rail thin, clad in baseball cap and brandishing gun, the man held up his first bank in San Diego County on Aug. 28. Since then, he’s robbed a bank in that county about every two to four weeks, authorities said.

Authorities are taking it all very seriously.

Read more »

Head of D.C. FBI Joseph Persichini Jr. Leaving Under Cloud Involving Test Scandal; 2 Other Top Officials Also Face Scrutiny

Joseph Persichini Jr./fbi photo

Joseph Persichini Jr./fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Joseph Persichini Jr., the head of the Washington field office, is retiring this month under a cloud of allegations that he  violated agency rules when taking an open book exam.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Office of Professional Responsibility, which conducts ethics investigations, had recommended disciplinary action, but “the appeals process had not run its course by the time Persichini announced his retirement last month.” He is scheduled to step down on Dec. 25.

Andrew Castor/fbi photo

Andrew Castor/fbi photo

The investigation into violation of the test rules also centers around two other high ranking officials in the D.C. FBI office — Keith Bryars, special agent in charge of administration, and Andrew Castor, special agent in charge of the criminal division.

Keith Bryars/fbi photo

Keith Bryars/fbi photo

The story about the scandal was first reported last month by ticklethewire.com.  The names of the agents were not published at the time, but it was reported that three high ranking agents may have received help on the exam from an FBI lawyer, and may have worked together, a clear violation of agency rules.

Persichini last month declined to comment on the scandal, as did Bryars when contacted by ticklethewire.com.  Castor did not return a phone call last month for comment. The Post reported that Persichini, 55,  attended his retirement party on Tuesday, and did not respond to requests for comment.

Calls to Persichini on Wednesday were transferred to Kate Schweit, the FBI spokeswoman, who said “we will be making no comment.” Bryars, when contacted Wednesday, took a number and indicated he would call back. Castor did not  return a phone call for comment.

Read more »

Oooops! Transportation Security Administration Accidentally Reveals Airport Security Secrets

It’s never a good thing when an agency which is part of the Department of Homeland Security — emphasis on Security — makes such a goof. Someone needs to pay closer attention.

oops-art

By Spencer S. Hsu and Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration inadvertently revealed closely guarded secrets related to airport passenger screening practices when it posted online this spring a document as part of a contract solicitation, the agency confirmed Tuesday.

The 93-page TSA operating manual details procedures for screening passengers and checked baggage, such as technical settings used by X-ray machines and explosives detectors. It also includes pictures of credentials used by members of Congress, CIA employees and federal air marshals, and it identifies 12 countries whose passport holders are automatically subjected to added scrutiny.

TSA officials said that the manual was posted online in a redacted form on a federal procurement Web site, but that the digital redactions were inadequate. They allowed computer users to recover blacked-out passages by copying and pasting them into a new document or an e-mail.

For Full Story

Ebony and GQ Magazines Give Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Major Shout Outs

Holder in GQ (left) and in Ebony
Holder in GQ (left) and in Ebony

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –– Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. is getting serious shout outs this month in some major magazines —  GQ and Ebony. Not bad.

Ebony, in its December/January issue,  listed Holder as one of the “Ebony Power 150” along with such notables as Michelle Obama, Bill Cosby, Rev. Al Sharpton, Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah.

“Here’s to you Mr. Holder,” the magazine wrote “for not biting your tongue and  for speaking up for what’s right. Finally, the Justice Department may actually carry out real justice. Holder has already rolled back the Bush administration’s policies on toture, disparities in sentencing and racial-profiling.”

And in the December GQ, in its “Men of the Year Issue”, Holder has been crowned a “Maverick.” It’s a compliment even if vice presidential Sarah Palin tossed that term around during the 2008 campaign like confetti in a parade.

Holder, as in the Ebony list, is in good company with such big names as President  Barack Obama, Alec Baldwin and Clint Eastwood.

“Inside the foyer of the Justice Department, two photographs grace the wall,” the GQ article says of Holder. “One shows the president, the other the attorney general. Over the years, the pictures have changed, but the change has never been more apparent than now: for the first time in history, both portraits are of young black men.

“The election of of Barack Obama last fall marked a shattering of racial barriers. But in many ways, his selection of Eric Holder as attorney general was an even more powerful symbol. No other federal agency has a more complicated history with race that the DoJ. At times a beacon of hope, enforcing civil rights, the department is also tarnished, as all American law enforcement is tarnished by the intractable problems of police brutality and racial profiling. To see a black man appointed as the nation’s top cop has special resonance in communities of color.

“Over the past ten months, Holder has learned to leverage his power — both actual an symbolic. He has reinvigorated the DoJ’s commitment to civil rights, launching long overdue investigations of banking discrimination, and detainee abuse. But he has also reached far beyond the department, attend a rally in Selma to remember Bloody Sunday and speaking out in Chicago after a surge in youth violence.

“I think it gives confidence to people who have suffered discrimination and injustice to know that they have a champion,” says Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest advisers. “Eric has walked in their shoes.”

4 Ark. Men Sentenced in Cross Burning Case

arkansas-mapBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The angry cross of hate still burns bright for some people — even in these times.

In this instance, four Arkansas men this week were given sentences  in federal court in Hot Springs, Ark., ranging from one to two years in prison for trying burn a cross to drive off a woman and her children for associating with African-Americans, authorities announced Tuesday.

The woman is white and her three children — ages 5, 19 months and 4 months at the time of the incident  in June 2008 — were fathered by an African American male, according to a government sentencing memorandum.

“The defendants in this case threatened a young family with violence simply because they associated with persons of another race. Threats of this kind have no place in this country, but they are regrettably all too common,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in a statement.

Authorities said Jacob Wingo,20, was sentenced to two years in prison; Clayton Morrison,29, got 15 months, Darren McKim,38, got 18 months; and Richard Robins, 42, got one year.

A fifth defendant, Dustin Nix, 21, was sentenced last month to one year and one day in prison.

Authorities said that Wingo admitted building a cross and taking it to the victims’ home in Donaldson, Ark and trying to ignite it in the yard while the family was home, a court document said.  Morrison admitted helping build the cross and accompanying Wingo and Nix to the the home to burn it. The others also admitted playing some role in intimidating the family.

Read Government Sentencing Memorandum

FBI Appoints Ex-Director William Webster to Conduct Independent Review of Fort Hood Incident

William Webster/fbi photo

William Webster/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has appointed former FBI director William Webster to conduct an independent review of the agency’s policies and actions prior to mass shootings at Fort Hood on Nov. 5.

The FBI said in a press release Tuesday that a preliminary review had been completed and “Webster will now lead an independent, outside effort that will look both at the initial findings and allow for additional review as he and his staff determine.”

“As a former FBI director, director of central intelligence, and federal judge, Judge Webster is uniquely qualified to undertake this task and look at the procedures and actions involved in this matter,” Mueller said in a prepared statement. “He, in the past, has led independent reviews of various FBI systems and broader policies and provided valuable recommendations. In this case, Judge Webster will have complete access and whatever resources necessary to complete the task.”

Webster was FBI director from 1978 to 1987.

FBI Probing Fatal Prison Stabbing in West Virginia

Hazelton Prison/usbop photo

Hazelton Prison/usbop photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI and prison officials are investigating a fatal stabbing of an inmate Sunday at the U.S. Penitentiary at Hazelton in West Virginia, the Associated Press reported.

The facility has been on lockdown since the Sunday when Jimmy Lee Wilson, 26, was stabbed to death during an altercation, AP reported. He had been serving a 130 sentence for robbing a credit union.

FBI Raids Chicago Bars; Probe Video Poker Machine Links to Mob

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.