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March 2012


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Archive for March 5th, 2012

ATF’s #2 Says Agency Mistakenly Used Drug Strategy in Operation Fast and Furious

Tom Brandon/atf photo

By Allan Lengel

The number two person at ATF says a key mistake in the controversial Operation Fast and Furious was that “a narcotics based strategy was applied to a firearms trafficking investigation.”

Tom Brandon, who stepped in last October as ATF’s deputy director as part of an effort to clean house after the failed Operation Fast and Furious came to the public’s attention, explained that while drug agents sometimes let drugs and money walk to further an investigation, it’s not good to do the same for gun probes.

“When you use that in firearms, that’s not good,” he said during an interview  on the radio show “The Badge” with Howard Safir.

He said people in management at the Phoenix ATF office had good intentions when they launched the operation, but “their decisions were bad.”

Fast and Furious encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels. ATF lost track of many of the guns, some of which surfaced at crime scenes on both sides of the border including one involving the murder in Arizona of U.S. Border agent Brian Terry.

“We made mistakes and we’re owning up to them,” he said of the operation.

Reader Responses

I am Mike Grimes, DEA retired, and a frequent reader of Tickle the Wire.

Tom Brandon at ATF is very misinformed about DEA’s policy on allowing drugs to “walk.” He makes it sound as though it is an every day occurrence. This is not the case. Yes, DEA will occasionally allow (the taxpayers’) money to walk. Money, as it exists, is not dangerous.

Yes, DEA will occasionally allow a very small drug sample to walk for testing purposes, not for use or distribution. DEA allowing a drug sample to walk is a rare occurrence because of the liability potential.

Mr. Brandon needs to find another avenue to deflect ATF’s foolish operational standard.


Comment from BobbyT7 | [e]

Time March 6, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Mike Grimes tells it like it is. I was assigned to a DEA group for several years and participated in dozens of undercover buys. I doubt the group let even a total of an ounce walk in those years.

I retired from the former USINS and was a border patrol agent for ten years, prior to my USINS special agent experience.

The part I don’t understand is how Fast & Furious got through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) process??? This is a major DOJ program in the criminal division. It requires review and approval by all of the member agencies of OCDETF, which includes ATF, DEA, FBI, ICE, IRS/CID and the U.S. Marshall Service. How could anyone sign off on such an operational proposal, much less experienced agents of all of these federal agencies, plus numerous federal prosecutors that review ALL proposals.

Did the operational plan come from the top (very high political level) down, so it didn’t matter what was written in the proposal??? Was there ever a proposal written???

ICE had an agent assigned directly to the ATF group that conducted Fast & Furious, what was he reporting through his chain of command???

Who decided to NOT tell the Mexicans??? Not some civil servant, I can certainly assure you.

Who decided not to tell the U.S. Department of State, our embassy etc…???

Holder Probes NYPD’s Surveillance of Muslims; Some Muslims Support the Spying

By Jon Perkins

In a new twist in an ongoing controversy, Muslim groups on Monday gathered in Manhattan to thank the New York Police Department for surveilling Muslims in two New Jersey cities and 16 college campuses, reported.

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, the president of the American Islamic Foundation, who attended a rally of about three dozen people, told the paper he saw nothing wrong with NPYD’s actions so long as it collected information in public.

“Maybe they can stop someone before they strap a bomb to their chest,” he said, according to the paper.

The gathering came in the wake  of comments last week by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who told Congress that he has begun an investigation into alleged spying of Muslims by the New York Police Department.

The Associated Press reported that Holder’s department will look into whether the police violated the some Muslims’ civil rights. The attorney general did not give a time frame for completing the probe.

He testified, according to AP, that police should only monitor citizens’ activities  “when there is a basis to believe that something inappropriate is occurring or potentially could occur.”

Documents obtained by the Associated Press show that the NYPD has built databases pinpointing where Muslims live, where they buy groceries, what Internet cafes they use and where they watch sports.

Dozens of mosques and student groups have been infiltrated, and police have built detailed profiles of Moroccans, Egyptians, Albanians and other local ethnic groups, AP reported.

Holder told Congress last week that police seeking to monitor activities by citizens “should only do so when there is a basis to believe that something inappropriate is occurring or potentially could occur.”

Ex-Atty. Gen. Ashcroft Endorses Romney

John Aschcroft/doj photo

By Allan Lengel

The Republican establishment is beginning to line up for GOP hopeful Mitt Romney.

The latest: Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who served under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005,  endorsed Romney on Monday, according to The Hill.

“I admire Mitt’s record of fiscal responsibility, lower taxes and defense of traditional values in a politically difficult state for a Republican,” Ashcroft said in a statement, according to The Hill.

“I had the opportunity to work with Mitt Romney on issues of national security during the 2002 Winter Olympics and counted him as a trustworthy, effective ally in the fight against terror while he was governor of Massachusetts. I know that the lives and liberties of the American people will be secure with him as president.”

Atty. Gen. Holder Defends Right to Kill American Terrorists Overseas

Eric Holder Jr./ file photo

By Allan Lengel

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. on Monday defended what he sees as America’s right to kill suspected American terrorists overseas.

“Let me be clear: an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances,” he said in a speech at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago.

“First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

To read the rest of his speech click here.






Column: Criminal Justice Prof Would Sign Petition to Pressure Fed Judge to Resign Over Racist Joke

Marvin Zalman is a professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Wayne State University. He teaches classes on constitutional criminal procedure, criminal justice policy and wrongful convictions. He was commenting on a column about a  racist joke that Chief Judge Richard Cebull circulated via email.

Prof Marvin Zalman

By Marvin Zalman

I too was outraged by the racist remarks of Judge Richard Cebull.

As one who respects judicial independence and appreciates the ways in which our justice system is, in its own peculiar way, political, I would oppose any move to impeach the judge, although I believe that Circuit sanctioning is possible.

I find your comment, however, to be one that I could agree with. Namely, I’d sign a petition asking/calling for the judge to resign depending on the language of such a petition and the organization calling for his resignation.

Federal judges have to be given the widest latitude for diverse opinions and views, and in my view should never be subjected to impeachment threats (other than for bribery or other real crimes) no matter how odious their views.

On the other hand, there are lines that are so bright they should never be crossed and when this happens public pressure to resign is appropriate.

I’m not so naive as to think that calls for resignation would not be manipulated by political operatives, but that is a long way from members of Congress (from those who voted to impeach Justice Chase to Tom DeLay) trying to impose their particular ideology on the courts.


Policing Crime Stoppers

fbi photo

The Daily

A host of financial issues at the nation’s largest Crime Stoppers programs is calling into question how wisely some are using funding received from their often cash-strapped communities.

Many are spending just a fraction of their revenue on rewards or costs related to call centers, according to information from federal tax filings. Others have seen rewards paid to tipsters plummet. And a handful who rely on employees rather than volunteers are paying salaries that sometimes dwarf total reward payouts.

Many of the groups are funded through court fines and fees, and public watchdogs wonder if the primary community crime-fighting program has strayed from its central philosophy — cash for information.

To read the full story click here.

Fed Judge Who Circulated Racist Joke About Obama Should Resign

Judge Richard Cebull/wikipedia

By Allan Lengel

It would come as no shock to find out some Republican appointees to the federal bench are not President Obama’s biggest fans.

Nonetheless, it still comes as a shock that Chief Judge Richard Cebull, who is in his late 60s, who was appointed by George W. Bush to the fed bench in Montana in 2001, would circulate an email with a blatantly racist joke about the President.

Sure, Cebull is sorry. He’s apologized to the President personally. He has said that his essential endorsement of the joke wasn’t really about race but rather about his dislike for Obama. And oh yes, he admitted the joke was pretty racist.

Cebull needs to resign from the bench.

In case you haven’t seen the joke, here it is:

“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’” the email joke reads. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’” […]

Sure Judge Cebull is sorry. We all do stupid things. But as a friend Daniel Proudfoot commented on, the spell has been broken and Cebull “cannot be made whole again.” The trust is gone. I look at this way: If a bank teller steals once, can they ever be trusted again?  The teller will always be suspect.

Let’s be honest.

If you were an African-American, would you trust the judge to be fair and impartial? If  your life literally depended on it, the answer is a big NO!

So the question is: Can we have someone on the federal bench who can only preside over cases with white defendants? Who can only sentence white defendants?

If you thinks that’s a good idea, then by all means, keep him on the bench.

If not, Judge Cebull, needs to retire, sooner than later.

ATF Finds Homemade Napalm During Meth Raid