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Archive for March, 2011

FBI Hunts for Killers of Armored Car Guard in Georgia

FBI Dir. Mueller Urges Congress to Reauthorize Use of Anti-Terrorism Tools

Robert Mueller/file fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller urged Congress Wednesday to reauthorize investigative tools like roving wiretaps to help fight terrorism.

“We encourage Congress to reauthorize the three critical FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) tools that will expire later this year: roving wiretap authority, access to business records under FISA, and the “lone wolf” provision,” Mueller said while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee.

“Two of these tools have been part of FISA since the USA PATRIOT Act was enacted nearly a decade ago, and the third has been in FISA since 2004. They have all been reauthorized several times. Each facilitates the collection of vital foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to support our national security mission.”

FISA was designed to  allow investigators to secretly conduct surveillance and gather intelligence of foreign entities and individuals inside the U.S.  without going through  the normal channels to get a court order. Instead, agencies submit the requests to the highly secretive FISA Court for approval.

The ‘”lone wolf provision Mueller referred to allows investigators to use FISA  for surveillance of a foreign person who may  be acting alone and has no ties to foreign organization. The roving wiretap allows the government to track someone who tries to elude authorities by constantly changing phones.

Mueller also said: “The foreign intelligence threat to the United States continues unabated, from traditional means such as last year’s arrest of a network of Russian spies living in the United States, to more contemporary methods of tradecraft.

“Foreign intelligence services continue to target political and military intelligence as well as information from economic institutions, both in and outside government. Foreign adversaries, however, do not rely on traditional agent networks alone—they are increasingly making use of non-traditional collectors, such as students, visiting scholars and scientists, and business people.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

U.S. Sending Drones into Mexico

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The war against drugs is looking more and more like a war.

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration has started sending drones deep into Mexico to gather intelligence on the location and activities of major drug traffickers.

The Times reports that the Pentagon began flying the unarmed drones last month. The paper reported that the information is being turned over to Mexican law enforcement.

The paper also reported that a Homeland Security drone “helped Mexican authorities find several suspects linked to the Feb. 15 killing of Jaime Zapata, a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Immigration agent.”

To read more click here.

DEA Seizes Execution Drug Used by State of Georgia

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In an odd footnote to the death penalty issue comes this:

The DEA on Tuesday seized a key lethal injection drug used by the state of Georgia, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

DEA spokesman Chuvalo Truesdell said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “We had questions about how the drug was imported to the U.S.”

The seizure came two months after the state executed a man who had claimed the drug was bought from a “fly-by-night” supplier in England, the paper reported. His attorneys had tried to delay the execution.

The paper reported that no more execution dates have been scheduled until the issue is resolved.

Talk of a New FBI Director Heats Up

Patrick Fitzgerald/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI Agents Association’s endorsement Tuesday of ex-FBI agent Mike Mason to head the FBI in September offers no guarantees, but it could raise his profile as a candidate. He would be the first African-American to head the agency.

Mason, who served in the FBI for 23 years, and currently heads security as Verizon, was a popular figure at the FBI among the troops. He headed the field offices in Sacramento and Washington and retired from the agency in 2007 as executive assistant director in charge of the Criminal Division at headquarters.  Mason is native of Chicago, which can’t hurt in the Obama administration.

It comes as no surprise that the Agents Association endorsed a former agent. It has often expressed a feeling that a former federal agent should have the job. The job has never gone to a current agent.

Director Robert S. Mueller III will retire in September after serving out his 10-year appointment that began in September 2001.  His tenure has been met with mixed results inside the bureau, particularly among some who were considered loyalists of his predecessor Louis Freeh, who had been a former agent.

Mike Mason/fbi photo

Some agents feel Mueller, a former federal prosecutor, didn’t truly understand the mindset of the agents. Some felt Freeh far better understood the agents and the agency, though to be fair, Freeh had his share of critics within the agency.

Some agents have said if a former  agent were not to get the job, they would prefer someone like Chicago’s U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

But some observers inside the Beltway say Fitzgerald, considered a rock star among U.S. Attorneys, may have hurt his chances when he showed a little too much swagger in December 2008 when he announced the arrest of then-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was later convicted on only  1 of 24 counts. The outcome was an embarrassment for the office, which plans to retry Blagojevich next month on the charges in which the jury deadlocked.

Another name that has surfaced as a possible candidate is John Pistole, the former number two person at the FBI who now heads up the Transportation Security Administration.

Pistole over the years has appeared on Capitol Hill to testify before Congress. He’s considered well poised, but some think he may not have enough gravitas to land the job. Still, some  rumors put him as a serious candidate.

Others names that have surfaced include former deputy General James Comey, Frances Fragos Townsend, a top Bush terror adviser during the Bush administration, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, former Justice Department official Ken Wainstein, William Bratton,  police chief of Los Angeles, Boston and New York, and Ron Noble, head of Interpol.

John Pistole/dhs photo

Townsend would be the first woman to head the agency. Though some seem to think her close ties to the Bush administration could ultimately diminish her chances.

The prevailing wisdom is that a decision on who the White House wants should be made by  June — enough time  for a nominee  to go through the confirmation process.

Despite Death Threats Ex-Chicago Mobster Talks to Students

FBI Agents Association Endorse Ex-FBI Agent Mike Mason as New Director

Mike Mason/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI Agents Association has endorsed ex-FBI agent Mike Mason to replace the soon-to-retire FBI Director Robert Mueller III.

The association, which represents more than 12,000 active duty and retired agents, said Tuesday that it had submitted the recommendation to the Obama Administration.

“While the FBIAA is not limiting itself to the candidacy of Mr. Mason, we believe it is important to provide an example of the type of person who embodies our principles,” wrote FBIAA President Konrad Motyka in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

“In the wake of 9-11, there was a concerted effort to transfer the Bureau’s domestic, intelligence-gathering responsibilities to a proposed MI5-styled agency,” wrote Motyka. “Quashing that effort, Director Mueller effectively explained the important linkage between criminal investigative principles and experience, intelligence gathering and analysis, and counterterrorism efforts.”

“While priorities may change,” continued Motyka, “Agents are as essential to our primary mission of protecting our country as they are to combating a wide array of threats ranging from Bloods street gangs to mortgage fraud to Russian sleeper cells…The next Director must remain committed to the centrality of the Special Agent to the Bureau’s mission.”

Mason would become the first African-American FBI director. He was a popular figure at the FBI. He was an agent for nearly 23 years and left to head up Verizon’s security in 2007. He held a number of positions during his tenure. He headed up the Sacramento and Washington field offices and retired as executive assistant director for the criminal division at headquarters.

The endorsement of an ex-agent comes as no surprise. The association generally prefers a law enforcement agent in the job. Robert Mueller, the current director, is a former federal prosecutor and the previous director,  Louis Freeh had been an agent at one time.

Mason declined comment on Tuesday when asked by ticklethewire.com  about his endorsements.

The endorsement doesn’t guarantee anything, but it could raise the profile of Mason as a candidate. Others names that have surfaced include U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago, former deputy Attorney General James Comey,  ex-FBI agent John Pistole who heads the Transportation Security Administration, Frances Fragos Townsend, a top Bush terror adviser during the Bush administration,  NYPD  Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and former Justice Department official Ken Wainstein.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Appeals Court Rules Colo. Man Can Sue Secret Service Agents

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

This could get interesting.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Colorado resident Steven Howards can sue two Secret Service agents who arrested him after he touched Vice President Dick Cheney’s arm in 2006 and told him that his Iraqi war policies were disgusting, the Associated Press reported.

AP reported Howards’ attorney said he plans to subpoena Cheney to testify about the incident.

“I fully intend on deposing the former vice president,” attorney David Lane told The Associated Press. The Secret Service agents had argued that they were immune from being sued.

AP reported that a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Howards can sue agents Virgil D. “Gus” Reichle Jr. and Dan Doyle on First Amendment grounds. The court, did however rule that two other agents were immune in the case.