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June 2011


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Archive for June, 2011

ATF’s Director Ken Melson Agrees to Talk to Senate Investigators About Fast and Furious

Ken Melson/atf photo

By Allan Lengel

The plot thickens.

Acting ATF Director Ken Melson has agreed to talk to Senate investigators about Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF program that encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers so federal agents could trace them to the Mexican cartels , according to The Daily Beast and Newsweek.

The website reported that the development was a “potentially important breakthrough” for Congress, which has been trying to figure out who in the Obama administration gave the okay for the disastrous program. He is expected to provide testimony next months.

Newsweek and the The Daily Beast testimony reported that the deal to get Melson to testify was part of a deal brokered  between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa’s Charles Grassley.

The website reported that the deal involved giving fellow Republicans full access to ATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses. In return,  Grassley agreed to release three Obama administration nominees — Jim Cole for deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco for assistant attorney general for national security and Virginia Seitz as head of legal counsel, Newsweek and The Daily Beast reported.


Breaking News: GUILTY x 17!!! Chicago Jury Convicts Blago on 17 Counts

Blagojevich/file photo

By Allan Lengel

On Monday, on the 10th day of deliberations, a federal jury hammered ex-Gov. Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich in his retrial, finding him guilty on 17 of 20 counts, according to CNN.

The jury found him not guilty on one count of bribery and deadlocked on two counts of attempted extortion.

A jury previously convicted him on 1 of 24 counts — a count that will be added to his tally when he’s sentenced.

Blagojevich was charged with selling his office for financial benefit, including trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

The overwhelming verdict was clearly a victory for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, whose office was embarrassed by the first verdict.

Two differences in the second trial: Blagojevich didn’t testify in the first trial, but did in the second.  Plus, the U.S.  Attorney’s Office simplified the charges in the second trial after jurors in the first case said they found some of the counts confusing.

Blagojevich told a throng of reporters: “I’m stunned.”

Read Chicago Tribune story

Another Absurd TSA Tale: 95 Year Old Woman Forced to Take Off Diaper for Search

By Allan Lengel

And now comes another story of the absurd involving the Transportation Security Administration, the folks who protect our airports.

The News Herald reports that a woman filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security after her 95-year-old mother, who is suffering from leukemia and in a wheelchair, was detained and searched and made to take off her adult diaper during a search at Northwest Florida Regional Airport last weekend.

Jean Weber of Destin, Fla. filed a complaint on behalf of her mother, who was headed to Michigan to be with family members in the final stages of leukemia, the paper reported.

Her mother, who was in a wheelchair, was asked to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a pat-down search.

“It’s something I couldn’t imagine happening on American soil,” Weber said Friday, according to the paper. “Here is my mother, 95 years old, 105 pounds, barely able to stand, and then this.”

TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz declined to comment, citing privacy issues, according to the paper.

Column: ATF Agent Says Agency Can Get an Agent Confirmed as Director if They’re Top Notch

Vincent Cefalu is a special agent with ATF. His column is in response to a column authored by ex-ATF official James Cavanaugh, who said appointing an ATF director by presidential appointment isn’t working. Cavanaugh said the appointment should be made by the umbrella agency — the Justice Department.

Vincent Cefalu

By Vincent A. Cefalu

I too I have worked for many Directors for 25 years and am STILL on the job. Therefore I would like to respond to the ATF unofficial mouth piece, Jim Cavanaugh.

First of all please stop speaking for ATF management, they are big boys. They have chosen to speak through DOJ attorney’s instead and that is quite troubling.

Your comments early in this debacle suggested you were trying to mitigate and minimize HQs accountability for being so out of control. You were making excuses for how hard catching gunrunners is. Let me break it down for you; you develop evidence and probable cause you seize their guns and arrest them or not. No Guns hit the street.

They LET 2000 guns go to criminals because no one in the loop had the courage or integrity to stop it. Sound familiar Jim? You are obviously doing a Great bit of promoting. And I am intimately aware of the gunshots you heard in anger, and the circumstances of why you heard those shots. That’s not a GOOD thing Jim. Why exactly did you hear gunshots at all?

Have you lost your mind? Keep the appointment in Justice? Yeah that’s who I want overseeing and making sure ATF is accountable.

We have the opportunity to stand with the big boys and because of a totally ineffective and abusive Executive staff, you assert that we can’t get a Director confirmed.

Enter Clarance Thomas, he got confirmed, enter an EXTRA 2 years for the Honorable Mr. Mueller. Stop telling the American people St. John cant get confirmed. How would you know that. All three of our last attempts failed. Stop selecting poor candidates and we will have a Director. Just because he has an ATF badge, doesn’t make him competent

I think what you fail to acknowledge is that Mr. Magaw saved and rebuilt this agency, love him or hate him. He definitely would have been confirmed. Then Mr. Truscott began the process of bosses being bigger than the mission.

Then Mr. Sullivan, who paid about as much attention to our agency as you do to facts. Half United States Attorney and half ATF Director. I think I may have figured out why we have lost our explosives jurisdiction for all practical purposes.

Our ESF 13 function was openly criticized by the GAO. Our NRT program is in the tank and we have more employee disputes than either the FBI or DEA. The industry that we have all worked so hard to become partners with over the last 30 years hate us and don’t trust us.

A Director from inside would be preferred by ALL. The notion the NRA will tank anybody for no reason is insane.

The abuses brought down on the industry by bad policies, the legislating from inside a Bureau has to stop. The total adversarial demeanor has to change, between the field and HQ. Most have lost faith.

That’s not going to happen, dipping a little deeper into the same poison well. They are all either promoted by or have promoted each other.

We need clean crisp leadership to groom a future Agent as our Director. A General Stanley McChrystal of sorts, that realizes HQ is here to support the field, not the other way around. Put a strong “A” political Cop Boss in their and he will get confirmed as a Director.

The exact reason the current and your generation of bosses got away with so much is because the layers of accountability were so thick, and there was no transparency.

No one much had accountability that he/she couldn’t hand off to somebody else. Lets be accountable. We are ATF. We don’t redact 95% of a document to a Congressional Chairman. We hand all of our stuff over. We are ATF and we have nothing to hide.

So Jim, if we let the Justice Department pick our Director, is it your assertion that they would hold likes of Mclemore, Crenshaw, Ford, Hoover at bay?

Um, do you watch the news? The agency lacks character and accountability at the highest levels. An outsider has to clean house, and then provide a short list of qualified managers for consideration as our Director. And no Jim, that is not going to be you. If it makes you feel better, I don’t want the job either.

Despite Capture of Boston Mobster Whitey Bulger Some Question FBI; Congressman Calls Justice Dept. Probe

Updated Bulger photo/wbur

By Allan Lengel

The FBI has gotten plenty pats on the back for capturing Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, who had been on the run for 16 years and was a long-time snitch for the bureau.

But the capture has dredged up plenty of old wounds — the fact that the FBI protected Bulger while he acted as an informant. There have been allegations the FBI sabotaged cases of other agencies like the DEA to protect Bulger, who was eventually charged in 19 murders.

The Boston media has been relentless in questioning the resolve of the FBI to capture Bulger, suggesting the agency wanted to avoid what’s about to happen: A dredging up of allegations of old — and possibly new — that the agency had some crooked agents and did some highly questionable things.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) wants the Justice Department to investigate how the FBI handled Bulger. He said maybe the Justice Department can glean new information to shed more light on the matter, according to the Boston Herald.

“There may be an opportunity to gain additional information regarding the FBI’s involvement in these crimes. It remains the responsibility of the Justice Department to see that a full investigation is completed,” Lynch said in a statement to the Herald. “With the capture of Mr. Bulger, my hope is that this (arrest) will bring some closure for the families of the victims.”

Boston FBI agent John “Zip” Connolly is behind bars for his handling of  Bulger.   Connolly was convicted of racketeering  in federal court and second-degree murder in state court in Florida for helping set up the 1982  killing of  World Jai Alai boss John Callahan in Miami.  Another ex-agent was implicated in the case but died in 2004, according to the Boston Herald.

Connolly , now 70, was accused of tipping off Bulger and Stephen Flemmi that Callahan was likely to implicate them in a murder. Hitman John Martorano killed Callahan in 1982.

The questioning of the FBI’s resolve in the case prompted Boston FBI Richard DesLauriers to issue a statement on Friday:

“Any claim that the FBI knew Mr. Bulger’s whereabouts prior to the FBI’s publicity efforts this week are completely unfounded. When we learned his location, he was arrested promptly.”

Some in the media haven’t really questioned DeLauriers’ resolve, or for that matter some of his  his predecessors, but they have raised questions as to others when Bulger first went on the lam in the mid-90s.

“It may be true that the new crop of agents and federal prosecutors are clean and wanted Whitey,” wrote Michelle McPhee in the Boston Herald .

“But there are too many unanswered questions about how he got away in the first place that should make U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz want to hand this case to an independent body, so the taint of the dirty Boston FBI office of the past does not leave a stench all over the work the feds are doing in this city now.”

New York Times Editorial: The Phony Tough-on-Terror Crowd

By The New York Times
Editorial Page

Republicans and Democrats are championing bills to further militarize the prosecution of terrorists, beyond anything even President George W. Bush proposed.

They want Americans to believe the legislation will keep the country safer. In fact, these bills could end up tying the hands of F.B.I. agents and other law enforcement officials trying to disrupt terrorist plots. They are likely to deprive prosecutors of their most powerful weapons in bringing terrorists to justice. And they come perilously close to upending the prohibition, which dates back to Reconstruction, against the military’s operating as a police force within the United States.

There is no sign that the White House tried to stop the House from passing a particularly awful version of these bills, which would move most, if not all, terrorism cases from civilian courts to military tribunals. And there is no sign the White House tried to stop the Senate Armed Services Committee from approving only a slightly better one.

To read more click here.

Secret Service Officer Sues Oklahoma Narcotics Agents for Drug Raid in 2008

By Allan Lengel

A U.S. Secret Service officer from Maryland is suing the an Oklahoma narcotics agent as a result of a 2008 raid at his home in a multi-state steroids probe, the Tulsa World reported.

Lester Blount Jr. of Prince Georges County, Md., whose job is to protect federal buildings and functions, is suing Brian Surber, an agent for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the paper reported.

Blount alleged that Surber was among the agents who used excessive force —  they held his family at gunpoint — during a raid at his home, the paper reported.  His children at the time were 1, 3 and 8.

Blount was put on a 22 month  administrative leave without pay before returning to work, the paper reported.

The lawsuit claims Surber used excessive force and made false statements in the search warrant affidavit, the paper reported.

“The search warrant was based on unverified allegations of steroid possession and distribution and the fact that Mr. Blount had a ‘muscular physique,’ ” the suit states, according to the paper.

“The charges, for which the unsupported search warrant was issued, were eventually dropped by Defendant because Mr. Blount is not, in fact, a drug user or dealer,” the lawsuit states.


Mobster Whitey Bulger’s Girlfriend Catherine Greig Was Loyal til the End

By Katherine Q. Seelye
The New York Times

From an early age, Catherine Elizabeth Greig knew the life of a moll. By about 20, she had married a Boston firefighter named Bobby McGonagle, joining a family with close ties to a gang that was part of the Irish mafia in their South Boston neighborhood. Violence and shootouts were not uncommon as gangs warred for control of the rackets.

Mr. McGonagle and Ms. Greig were divorced within a few years, and she became involved with Mr. Bulger, who is more than 20 years her senior.

It was a sign, perhaps, that if she could overlook his possible involvement in the deaths of her two brothers-in-law, she could overlook a lot more.

To read full story click here.