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Archive for January 20th, 2010

Please Make Them Go Away: The Salahi Circus Comes to Congress

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

President Nominates 5 More U.S. Attorneys

Loretta Lynch/law firm photo
Loretta Lynch/law firm photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — With still plenty slots to fill nationwide, President Obama on Wednesday nominated lawyers for U.S. Attorney posts in Louisiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and New York, the website Main Justice reported.

The nominees, according to Main Justice, include Stephanie  Finley for the Western District of Louisiana;  R.  Booth  Goodwin for the Southern District of West Virginia; David Hale for the Western District of Kentucky; Kerry Harvey for the Eastern District of Kentucky and Loretta Lynch for the Eastern District of New York.

FBI Dir. Mueller Warns Terrorist Threats “More Dangerous With Each Passing Day”; And Intelligence Director Misspeaks

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON – Some of  the Who’s Who of the federal law enforcement and intelligence community came to Capitol Hill at multiple hearings to talk about terrorism and security, including FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III Mueller, who warned of the dangers ahead.

“As the Christmas Day attempted bombing illustrates the threats we face are becoming more diverse and more dangerous with each passing day,” Mueller said in a statement before Congress.

Mueller testifying before Congress/cspan photo

Mueller testifying before Congress/cspan photo

“We not only face threats from al Qaeda, but also from self directed groups not part of al Qaeda’s formal structure, which have ties to terrorist organizations through money or training.”

Meanwhile, Dennis Blair, the director of National Intelligence apparently misspoke when testifying before Congress. He  said before a decision was made to prosecute in civilian court, underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab  should have been interrogated by the High Value Interrogation Group, a concept created last year after the President decided to close Gitmo, the Associated Press reported.

“That unit was created exactly for this purpose — to make a decision on whether a certain person who’s detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means,” Blair told the Senate homeland security committee. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have.”

He also said he was not consulted before a decision was made to question the bomber and prosecute him in a civilian court.

The problem is the unit was created in concept only.  It is not yet operational. In other words, it is non-existent.

Dennis Blair/cspan photo
Dennis Blair/cspan photo

But a press report on the  Washington Post website portrayed Blair as being critical of the FBI  and of  the decision to prosecute in civilian court and not use the interrogation unit.

Blair subsequently issued a statement on his agency’s website:

“My remarks today before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs have been misconstrued. The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody. They received important intelligence at that time, drawing on the FBI’s expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational.”

The Post reported Thursday that he added: “There should be a decision process right at the outset as to the balance between intelligence-gathering and evidence for prosecution.”

Fair to say, whatever the truth is here, there are differences that need to be ironed out between the intelligence community and the FBI.

Some on Capitol Hill have been highly critical that the administration did not choose to declare Abdulmutallab an enemy combatant. They feel authorities could have gotten far more intelligence from him.

FBI agents interviewed the attempted bomber after his arrest and reportedly got valuable intelligence. However, he clammed up after he was appointed public federal defenders.

Some who have defended the move to prosecute in civilian court have pointed out that the shoe bomber Richard Reid was taken to a civilian court as well.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

FBI Agents Obtained Phone Records Using “Startling” and Highly Questionable Methods, Inspector Gen. Report Finds

The upside of this is that the Inspector General for the Justice Department has reviewed this weighty matter and exposed it in a report. Also, the good news is that the FBI says it has stopped this shoddy practice, which also targeted reporters’ phones. In fact, the report says: “Some of the most troubling improper requests for telephone records occurred in media leak cases, where the FBI sought and acquired reporters’ telephone toll billing records.”

To read full report click here.

Read FBI Response click here.

Telephones

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — FBI agents seeking telephone records demanded information from phone companies in a variety of “startling” and illicit methods, including e-mail and post-it notes, in an “egregious breakdown” of safeguards and oversight, the Justice Department’s inspector general reported Wednesday.

The long-awaited investigative report describes numerous lapses by FBI agents seeking material through more than 700 emergency letters to phone service providers between 2002 and 2006, many of which did not involve real urgency, officials said.

One FBI agent interviewed in connection with the probe said the process became so casual that “it [was] like having an ATM in your living room,” according to the report.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, told lawmakers that the process had ended in 2006 and that officials were reviewing the report to determine whether any bureau employees should be disciplined for the lapses. Mueller pointed out that the phone records did not cover the content of calls but rather toll information.

For Full story

FBI issued a reponse that said:

The FBI ceased this practice in 2006 and was never involved in obtaining the content of telephone conversations.

“The OIG report finds no intentional attempts to obtain records that counterterrorism personnel knew they were not legally entitled to obtain,” said Michael P. Kortan, the FBI’s Assistant Director for Public Affairs. “No FBI employee obtained telephone records for reasons other than a legitimate investigative interest. FBI employees involved in this matter obtained the telephone records at issue to perform their critical mission to prevent a terrorist attack or otherwise to support a counterterrorism investigation.”

To read full statement click here.

Acting Chief Michele Leonhart Expected to Get Nod Soon From White House to Head DEA on Permanent Basis

DEA's Michele Leonhart/dea photo

DEA's Michele Leonhart/dea photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — It looks like Michele Leonhart, the acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, will soon get the nomination from the White House to fill the post on a permanent basis, according to knowledgeable sources.

Leonhart, a former Baltimore cop, joined the DEA in 1980 and rose through the ranks to become deputy administrator in 2004. In 2007, she became acting administrator, the top post in DEA, after Karen Tandy resigned.

Leonhart would have to be confirmed by the Senate to take the post on a permanent basis. The Senate confirmed her as the deputy administrator in March 2004.

Rusty Payne, a DEA spokesman, declined to comment and referred calls to the White House. The White House on Wednesday afternoon asked that the question be submitted in an email.  It has not yet responded.

eBay Deal: A Doughnut Shop Owner, Tusks and a Fed Indictment

u.s. fish and wildlife service photo

African elephant/u.s. fish and wildlife service photo

By Allan Lengel
For Sphere.com (A New AOL news site)

There are plenty of legal things to buy on eBay, but elephant ivory isn’t one of them.

Federal authorities in Los Angeles on Tuesday indicted a Thai national charged with trafficking in ivory from endangered African elephants, and a California doughnut shop owner who allegedly bought them on eBay. A whole elephant tusk, which can range from 3 to 6 feet in length, can go for up to $10,000 on the black market.

The U.S. forbids, with rare exceptions, the importation of ivory from African elephants, which are on the endangered species list, authorities said. Asian elephants are also on the endangered list.

The 11-count indictment charged Samart Chokchoyma of Bangkok and Moun Chau of Montclair, Calif., with conspiring to import the illegal items. Authorities alleged that Chokchoyma obtained African elephant ivory in Thailand and that Chau allegedly bought the items on online auction site eBay.

For Full Story

Homeland Security to Send Up to 900 More Coast Guard Reserves to Haiti

coast guard photo

coast guard photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Sec. of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on Tuesday authorized the temporary activation of up to 900 reserve U.S. Coast Guard service members to “bolster the more than 500 Coast Guard personnel already serving in Haiti in support of the U.S. government’s response to the devastation caused by the Jan. 12 earthquake.”

“Activating our reserve Coast Guard forces will expand our capacity to assist in aid efforts in Haiti,” Napolitano said in a statement. “These brave men and women will join the thousands of U.S. and international personnel already working together on humanitarian and recovery efforts in response to this tragedy.”

The Coast Guard will use more than 100 of the newly-activated reserves to strengthen port security operations in Port Au Prince, Homeland Security said.

Ex-FBI Agent Who Was Nominated to Head TSA Withdraws Name; Leadership in Limbo

Leadership in Limbo

Leadership in Limbo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The effort to nail down the top spot for the Transportation Security Administration has taken one giant step backwards at a time airport security is still a pressing concern among Americans.

Nominee Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent, said he  is withdrawing his name to lead the agency  because his nomination had become a lightning rod for politicos in  Washington, the Associated Press reported. The move puts the leadership of TSA in limbo at a critical time for the agency.

His nomination had become increasingly problematic.

First off, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint was blocking the final confirmation, saying he feared Southers would let TSA employees join a union.

And then there were questions about his actions some 20 years ago as an FBI agent when he was reprimanded for running background checks on his then-estranged wife’s boyfriend.

He initially told Senators that he had a member of the San Diego police department run a check. But a day after his nomination made it out of committee, he wrote to Senators and said he had actually run the checks himself twice, AP reported.