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Archive for November, 2010

DEA Cracking Down on “Fake Pot”

Michele Leonhart/dea photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The DEA on Wednesday announced it was using its “emergency scheduling authority” to temporarily outlaw  five chemicals used to make “fake pot” products.

The DEA said the move was in response to the increasingly popularity of the products that were harming people.

The DEA said plans to oulaw the products for at least 12 months with the possibility of a six-month extension. They will be designated as Schedule I substances, the most restrictive category.

In a press release the DEA stated: “Over the past year, smokable herbal blends marketed as being ‘legal’ and providing a marijuana-like high, have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults.

“These products consist of plant material that has been coated with research chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet.”

The DEA said since 2009 it has received an increasing number of reports from poison centers, hospitals and law enforcement about the fake pot products.

“The American public looks to the DEA to protect its children and communities from those who would exploit them for their own gain,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Makers of these harmful products mislead their customers into thinking that ‘fake pot’ is a harmless alternative to illegal drugs, but that is not the case.”

Color-Coded Terror Alerts Might Get Scrapped

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The color-coded terror alerts  that began eight years ago after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks could be headed for the trash bin.

The Associated Press reports that the Homeland Security Department is proposing to discontinue the the five-color coded system, with green representing the lowest threat and red the highest. At airports, the color has been orange, the second from the top.

AP reported that critics thought the colors were too vague and Democrats had complained during the Bush years that it was being used as a political scare tactic.

Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole told ABC’s “Good Morning America” said the administration wants to give the public a better idea of threats and that the colors may be too vague.

“I think it’s something that is under review to make it meaningful and relevant to the American people,” he said. “I’m just not sure how relevant it is.”

Movie: Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAQ-9ksRuDk

$100K Down the Toilet; Scandal Rocks D.C. Suburb as FBI Investigates

Jack Johnson/wusa

By Allan Lengel
For AOL News

The former school superintendent is behind bars. County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife are whisked away in handcuffs by FBI agents, after authorities say she flushed evidence in the form of a $100,000 check down the toilet. And a few days later, three county cops are indicted in an FBI probe linked to the county executive — a probe that has all the markings of a much bigger scandal to come.

This is no obscure county in the middle of Nowheresville, U.S.A. It’s Prince George’s County, 498 square miles with more than 800,000 residents, long considered one of the most affluent African-American majority counties in the nation. It’s home to the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field and the University of Maryland. And it borders Washington, D.C.

Still, for all the good in the county, including some first-rate neighborhoods and a major new hotel, shopping and entertainment complex on the Potomac River, it has long fought hard in the public relations game and often come up short, battling nagging negatives.

Over the years, the police department was plagued by allegations of excessive force. The crime rate spiked a few years ago, with homicides hitting a record 173 in 2005, just 21 short of Washington’s tally. In 2008, Schools Superintendent Andre Hornsby was convicted of steering contracts to a girlfriend and a business associate in exchange for money. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

And now this.

“I think this situation has been extremely embarrassing for Prince George’s County, ” said Mel Franklin, a newly elected County Council member who will take office Dec. 6, the same day new County Executive Rushern L. Baker III replaces Johnson, who was prevented from running again because of term limits. “It worsens the perception that we have a pay-to-play leadership, particularly when it comes to development. And it comes at a particularly bad time when we have a change in leadership. This is really an unfair distraction.”

Still, those like Jim Keary, a former reporter and current press spokesman for Johnson, think the PR battle for the county has always been played on an uneven field.

“The only time the media shows up in Prince George’s County is for something negative,” says Keary, who will leave the job when Johnson departs. “There was never any balance. We have the lowest crime rate in 35 years right now. Have you seen any banner headlines on that?”

Keary is not alone.

Phil Lee, a self-described community activist and advocate, said, “I’ll tell you, strange enough, honestly I find people appear to be more upset or aggravated with the press to some degree, because I think what people say is everyone is innocent until proven guilty. The reality is, the county executive has always had a very good relationship with the community.

“You find people who believe he [Johnson] is going to be vindicated. And people who think there will be a long, ugly, drawn-out trial and that does not serve us well. Nobody really likes this.”

The latest development took many by surprise. Johnson, 61, a former state’s attorney for the county, was elected county executive in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006.

He pledged to make the county more livable and cleaner. He also worked hard to change the image of the police department, which some residents saw as overly aggressive. Additionally, under his tenure, the county got an impressive AAA credit rating and attracted the massive National Harbor development on the Potomac.

But Johnson had his share of detractors, and for years there had been rumors of federal and state investigations into the hiring of friends and questionable relationships between Johnson and developers.

Then, late last week, FBI agents took away Johnson and his wife, Leslie, in handcuffs. The arrest capped a drama the FBI captured on a wiretapped phone conversation between Johnson and his wife on the day of the arrest, just as FBI agents stood outside their door waiting for someone to answer. Johnson’s wife was home.

According to the FBI affidavit, Johnson had on different occasions allegedly taken a $100,000 check, $5,000 in cash and $15,000 in cash from a developer. So as FBI agents waited outside, according to police, Johnson told his wife to flush a check from a developer down the toilet and hide the cash in her underwear. She told him it was in her bra. Agents finally came in and found it in her underwear — more than $79,000, according to the affidavit.

As if the county needed another blemish, three days later, nine people — including three county policemen — were indicted in an FBI sting in which the cops allegedly helped protect and sell untaxed cigarettes and liquor. One cop was indicted on drug trafficking charges. Federal authorities said publicly the investigation was linked to the Johnson probe, but didn’t elaborate.

A federal law enforcement source told AOL News that Johnson’s name came up during the FBI investigation into police corruption and the sale of untaxed cigarettes and liquor. A liquor store owner, who was one of the nine people indicted, told an undercover FBI agent in the case that he had given Johnson $40,000 to take care of a problem he had getting a permit for a property he owned, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case’s sensitivity.

And one of the officers indicted, who worked off-duty as a security guard for the liquor store, told the undercover agent during the sting that Johnson was on the payroll of the store and was all about the money, the law enforcement source said.

As for Johnson, Keary, his press spokesman, says his boss insists he’s innocent and wants to finish up his term. In fact, on Monday, a few days after getting arrested, Johnson showed up for work.

“He and his family are doing well,” Keary said. “He received visits and messages from hundreds of people who told him to remain strong and faithful and finish what he started.”

Keary said he wished the media would report on such things as the county’s AAA bond rating. “The image of this county would be much better,” he said.

County Council member Franklin says of the Johnson affair, “I’m very disturbed by the circumstances that arose last Friday. They’re very difficult for anyone to just explain away.

“That’s why it’s very important that our [new] leadership be adamant that corruption in Prince George’s County cannot be tolerated,” he said.

The Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

Critics Still Skeptical of “War on Toner” Involving Terrorism

By Zack Cohen
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON —  It’s being satirically dubbed the“war on toner,” a phrase that reflects experts’ skepticism about the U.S. response to al Qaeda’s failed bid to blow up U.S. bound planes with explosive-packed ink cartridges.

In other words, the response is  hardly sufficient, some experts insist.

“In typical TSA fashion [the measures] are reactionary,” said Kevin McCarthy, a consultant to the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Institute. “We already know what we can find and what we cannot find and we are not very good at it,” he said. We need to “look for the intelligence, the trigger, the other parts of the equation.”

Specifically, the U.S. has banned all ground cargo from Yemen and Somalia and  adapted new rules for inbound cargo  to reflect the latest intelligence. No high-risk cargo will be allowed on passenger aircrafts and toner and ink cartridges over 16 ounces are banned from checked and carry on luggage from domestic and international flights bound for the U.S.

There are plenty skeptics who scoff at the idea that limiting the size of an ink cartridge will do much good when it comes to fending off a terrorist attack.

And  implementing more intensive measures along those lines will only create a false sense of security, according to Chris Battle, a former deputy for the Department of Homeland Security.

For one, he said, the perception that the government is catching everything could result in  focusing too much on technology and not enough on intelligence gathering and risk assessment.

“The U.S. Congress seems to be the only entity in the world that thinks you can adequately screen 100 percent of all cargo coming into and leaving the country,” Battle said. “It should be remembered that the explosives were not detected by technology but through intelligence.”

Read more »

DEA Busts Retired Chicago Cop for Allegedly Helping Violent Drug Organization

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The DEA has arrested a retired Chicago cop on charges he provided information and lied for a drug organization involved in murder, kidnapping, robbery and narcotics distribution, authorities announced Tuesday.

Authorities arrested Glenn Lewellen, a Chicago cop from 1986 to 2002, who allegedly provided information about ongoing federal investigations into the drug organization known as as the “Rodriguez Enterprise”, according to the indictment.

Rodriguez and the other five defendants previously charged were arrested in April 2009 when they allegedly conspired to steal hundreds of kilograms of purported cocaine from a warehouse in southwest suburban Channahon, authorities said.

In all, the superseding indictment charged Lewellen and nine others.

The feds arrested Lewellen, 54, of Las Vegas, in Las Vegas on Friday, authorities said.

He was charged with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, but  was not involved in two alleged murders involving other defendants, authorities said.

But he was charged with participating in a 2003 kidnapping and robbery of 100 kilograms of cocaine and cash, authorities said.

Authorities alleged that Lewellen obstructed justice to protect and conceal the Rodriguez Enterprise’s illegal activities, including testifying falsely in a federal criminal trial in December 1999.

Authorities said this past May, after learning of the false testimony, fed prosecutors got the judge to release a prisoner and vacate the charges.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Critics Question Appointment of FBI Agent to Run Terrorist Explosive Center

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The FBI has appointed veteran agent Rafael J. Garcia to run its Terrorist Explosives Device  Analytical Center (TEDAC) , but some critics say there are people more qualified for the job, reports Jeff Stein’s Spy Talk column in the Washington Post.

Spy Talk writes that Garcia, who has been with the FBI for about 15 years, “may be a very fine man, but veteran bomb experts are complaining that he comes to the new job without any first-hand experience with explosives.”

Spy Talk writes that critics say the selection isn’t a bad reflection on Garcia, but rather the FBI’s selection of managers. Some critics say the job should have gone to Greg Carl, head of the FBI’s explosives unit for the past eight years.

FBI spokesman Michael Kortan told Spy Talk Garcia “was selected as TEDAC Director because of his proven record of effective leadership within the FBI and among other government partners in the military and intelligence communities.”

Garcia had “experience in Iraq with IEDs,” Kortan told Spy Talk and a “distinguished record in the intelligence field.”

To read more click here.

Reader Comments

Comment from Bill McCrory | [e]

Time November 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm

So send him to the HDS Basic course. He needs enough HDS training to enable him to understand the technologies and interact with those who are specialized (“experts”), but his main function will be to administer the unit. He’s not going to be doing RSPs. Being a tech does not guarantee administrative, leadership, and management competence.