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Archive for April, 2011

FBI Agent Commits Suicide in Maine

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI wasn’t saying much last week about the suicide of an FBI agent, who shot himself  in the Portland, Maine area over the weekend of April 24, according to sources.

The agent was in his early 50s, one source said.

FBI agent Greg Comcowich, a spokesman for the Boston FBI Division, which includes Maine,  told the ticklethewire.com:

“The type of question which you are inquiring (about)is not something the FBI would comment on.”

Last year, an FBI agent assigned to Quantico committed suicide.

IG Report Says Some FBI Agents Lack Skills to Probe Computer Intrusions


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department Inspector General report issued Wednesday says a third of the agents it interviewed, who probe national security-related computer intrusions, lacked certain skills to competently do their jobs.

Specifically, the  report said of the of 36 agents interviewed at 10 field offices, 13 “lacked the networking and counterintelligence expertise to investigate national security intrusion cases.”

“One agent told us that he was assigned his first counterterrorism intrusion case but he did not know how to investigate a national security intrusion case,” according to the report.

The report also said the FBI’s inter-agency cyber security task force sometimes failed to share essential info with its task force members.

Jenny Shearer, an FBI spokeswoman, told Bloomberg news that the report was a snapshot of the FBI’s cyber division taken from a few field offices.

She said Congress has limited appropriations, but the FBI spends more in this area than appropriated, she told Bloomberg.

“We’re working hard on it,” she said.

Read report

San Francisco Chronicle Denies Secret Service Request to Monitor Its Phones During Visit by Napolitano

Janet Napolitano/file photo-bill maher show

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Secret Service may have touched a on a sensitive nerve with the San Francisco Chronicle.

The agency  asked the paper if it could monitor its phone traffic during a visit by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday. She had gone to the paper to talk to the Editorial Board.

The agency wanted to monitor phone numbers, not conversations, in case of a bomb or other type of threat.

The paper denied the request. The paper asked Napolitano during an interview if the request was part of a new protocol.

“I don’t know the answer,” she told the Chronicle, and said she’d look into the matter.

On Tuesday, the Secret Service released a statement to the paper:

“A request for a caller ID device referred to as a ‘phone trap’ is standard operating procedure for sites visited by protectees of the Secret Service in San Francisco in order to quickly identify phone numbers should they call in a bomb threat or other type of threat to a protected site. There is no monitoring of phone conversations nor are there any lists of phone numbers generated.”

Atty. Gen. Holder Says He Hopes FBI Director Confirmed Way Before Sept.

Patrick Fitzgerald/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The hunt for a new FBI director — and the Senate confirmation —  will hopefully be completed way before Robert Mueller III retires Sept. 4, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. said Tuesday.

“The goal is to have somebody nominated and ready to go,” Holder told reporters, according to USA Today. “We have to move relatively soon.”

“Bob is a hard person to replace,” Holder said of Mueller, according to USA Today. In September, he will have served out his 10-year term.

The names of a number of candidates have surfaced including Chicago’s U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald; ex-FBI agent Mike Mason, who heads of security at Verizon; ex-deputy attorney general James Comey; Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole, who was the number two person at the FBI; Ken Wainstein, who oversaw the Justice Department’s National Security Division; former Los Angeles police chief William Bratton and N.Y. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

For a period of time, U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald appeared to be on the very short list. But his chances — at least for a while — were damaged when he showed too much swagger publicly when announcing the indictment of ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Mike Mason/fbi photo

To boot, the trial ended up being an embarrassment to Fitzgerald and his office. The jury only convicted Blagojevich of 1 of 24 counts — lying to the FBI.

The retrial could help his standing in the FBI director race if the outcome is more favorable to his office. Jury selection in downtown Chicago is currently underway.

The FBI Agents Association has endorsed Mike Mason. The endorsement could be helpful, but it only carries so much weight. He would become the first African American FBI director.

NYPD Commissioner Kelly/nypd photo

Sen.  Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)  has been pushing N.Y.  Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who certainly has the resume. But Kelly has clashed repeatedly with the FBI over the years, and some folks in Washington might try to undermine his chances. Simply put:  There are plenty agents who hate him.

Plus,  he will be 70 in September.  It’s a 10-year appointment. Then again, nothing says he would have to serve out his full term.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Feds Indict 4 in Mumbai Attacks Including 2 With Links to Pakistan Security

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Sometimes friends aren’t always real friends.

The investigative website ProPublica reports that the feds in Chicago on Monday indicted four suspected masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Two of those folks have been linked to Pakistan’s security forces, who supposed to be helping out the U.S. in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

“The indictment filed Monday never mentions the Pakistani security forces or their alleged role in the attacks,” ProPublica wrote. “But it represents a major development in a secretive, diplomatically sensitive prosecution set for trial next month, because Pakistan is considered a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism.”

To read full story click here.

Authorities Nab Colo. Mall Bomber

Justice Dept. Drops Leak Probe into Warrantless Wiretaps That Earned NY Times a Pulitzer

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Sometimes leak investigation fade into the sunset, never to be heard again.

That appears to be the case with the Justice Department, which has quietly dropped the  criminal investigation into a lawyer who admitted leaking information about President George W. Bush’s top-secret warrantless wiretapping program to The New York Times. The Times ended up winning a Pulitzer Prize with the help of that disclosure, according to Josh Gerstein of Politico.

“The decision not to prosecute former Justice Department lawyer Thomas Tamm means it is unlikely that anyone will ever be charged for the disclosures that led to the Times’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story in December 2005 revealing that, after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush ordered the interception of certain phone calls and email messages into and out of the U.S. without a warrant — a move many lawyers contend violated the 1978 law governing intelligence-related wiretaps,” Gerstein wrote.

To read more click here.

Ex-FBI Agent Turned Congressman Described as Hotheaded Agent in New Yorker Piece

Rep. Michael Grimm

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Was New York Congressman Michael Grimm a hotheaded FBI agent with a chip on his shoulder?

That’s apparently the conclusion of an article in the latest edition of the New Yorker, according to the Staten Island Advance newspaper. Grimm, a former FBI agent, represents, Staten Island. He is a Republican.

“The 10-page story has unearthed a decade-old allegation that Grimm, during his days as an FBI agent, abused his authority and waved his gun during a nightclub dust-up with the husband of a woman he was dating,” the Staten Island Advance wrote.

The article quotes unnamed FBI colleagues. Some applauded him for his undercover work and others said they were bothered that he used his FBI career as a political springboard, the Staten Island reported.

The magazine piece includes agent Lawrence Ferazani, who said, “I wouldn’t question his integrity,” and “he never, ever, challenged the rules,” according to the Staten Island Advance.

Another agent called Grimm “a very good undercover” with a “big ego.” A former agent said, “He was not thought of very highly.”

On his Congressional website, here’s how he describes part of his career:

“It was during his tenure with the Fraud Squad that Michael started his undercover career becoming the first FBI Agent to successfully infiltrate Wall Street. Posing as a hedge fund manager during Operation Wooden Nickel, arguably one of the most successful White Collar undercover investigations in the history of the FBI, Michael obtained evidence against more than 50 individuals committing frauds spanning the spectrum from stock manipulation and currency scams to money laundering. After establishing a reputation as a reliable, “go-to” undercover agent, Michael was enlisted to investigate corrupt politicians in New Jersey, corrupt police officers in Florida, and various other cases. Michael has relentlessly fought corruption and served our country proudly.”