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Archive for September, 2012

New York Times Editorial: Fast, Furious and Foolish

By The New York Times
Editorial Page

The recklessness of federal officials in their harebrained scheme to assist in illegal gunrunning to Mexican drug cartels was laid bare in a scathing report by the Justice Department’s inspector general.

Primary blame for the botched program — known as Operation Fast and Furious — was placed on a group of Arizona-based prosecutors and officials of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who lost track of hundreds of weapons that were allowed to pass into Mexico in hopes of tracing them to cartel leaders.

Two of the high-powered guns turned up at an Arizona shootout in 2010 that killed an American Border Patrol officer.

The ill-conceived operation put public safety at risk with no effective plan to track the guns, according to the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, who found “misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures,” including slipshod oversight at Justice Department headquarters in Washington.

To read more click here.

 

The U.S. vs Detroit’s Ex-Mayor Kwame Malik Kilpatrick

Ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick/official photo

By Allan Lengel
For Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — More than two years after he was indicted by the feds, and four years after he resigned in disgrace as mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick steps into the legal ring in federal court Friday,  ready to do battle as he tries to stay free and remain with his wife and kids.

A loss could easily put him behind bars for 10 or 15 years or more. A win would give him freedom and a crown of invincibility.

Flanked by his attorneys, Kilpatrick, 42, will go up against the full-force of the Justice Department and FBI in what is easily the highest profile trial in Detroit in recent memory. The trial is expected to last about four months.

The prosecution, in opening statements today will vilify him, portraying him as the kingpin of the “Kilpatrick Enterprise”, a criminal organization that used city hall to make lots of money for family and friends by rigging contracts and extorting donations to three non-profits.

Kilpatrick’s attorney is likely to portray him as a mayor who cared dearly about his job and the people and was wrongly accused.

The feds will come armed with a full arsenal; wiretaps, surveillance video, his text messages and prosecution witnesses including friends and former appointees.

To read the full story click here.

Mexican Convicted of Torture-Slaying of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena Dies in Prison

Enrique Camarena

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Mexican man convicted of torturing and killing a DEA agent in 1985 died Tuesday at a federal prison in Florida, the AP reports.

Ruben Zuno Arce was serving a life sentence in the death of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, who was kidnapped and murdered by drug lords in western Mexico in 1985.

His death was in retaliation for anti-drug raids, the AP reported.

Zuno Arce was the brother-in-law of former Mexican President Luis Echeverria.

Man Who Took Hostage at FBI Building Anguished Over Ex-Wife’s Death

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

 A 41-year-old man charged Wednesday with holding a hostage at knifepoint in a Salt Lake City office building that houses the FBI wanted to speak with the bureau’s forensic psychiatrist, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

Robert Joseph Hibbard was upset about his ex-wife’s death and what he considered to be a botched investigation into the role the woman’s new husband played in the death, according to the Tribune.

Police said the ex-wife, Rashell Langford, fatally shot herself while high on bath salts with her husband, who allegedly backed out of a suicide pact with her.

According to the Tribune, the new husband, Shawn Langford, received a reduced charge of reckless endangerment and faces up to a year in jail.

Son of Massacre Victim Wants FBI to Keep Stats on Anti-Sikh Hate Crimes

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The son of a woman killed at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin is urging the federal government to begin tracking hate crimes against Sikhs, the Associated Press reports.

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Harpreet Singh Saini, 18, said his mother deserves “the dignity of being a statistic.”

The Department of Justice said it’s considering whether to recommend that the FBI begin keeping statistics on hate crimes against Sikhs, according to the AP.

Wade Michael Page, who later died of a self-inflicted gunshot, opened fire at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding four, the AP reported.

Border Patrol Pilot in Hot Water After Flying Helicopter Over Football Field for Son

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

 A father who flew a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol helicopter over a high school football field in northern Virginia has some explaining to do, the Washington Times reports.

From the low-flying helicopter, the border patrol pilot dropped a stuffed animal that carried an invitation to the homecoming dance from his son to a girl on Sept. 12.

It may have won over the 17-year-old student, but the federal government wasn’t as tickled, the Times reported.

“CBP management is looking into the matter and the pilot in command of the aircraft has been relieved and reassigned to administrative duties pending completion of the review of the incident,” Michael Friel, a spokesman for customs and Border Protection, said in a statement.

The pilot’s identity wasn’t released.

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

Darrell Issa Weighs in on IG’s Report on Operation Fast and Furious

IG Report On Fast and Furious Points Finger at 14 From ATF and Justice

atf file photo

By Richard A. Serrano
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – Fourteen federal law enforcement officials – from field agents in Arizona to top managers in the ATF and Department of Justice in Washington – created a “significant danger to public safety” under Operation Fast and Furious and were referred for possible job discipline for carrying out a gun-walking operation that saturated the Southwest Border with more than 2,000 illegally-purchased firearms.

Less than an hour after those findings were announced Wednesday by the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s office, two of the individuals – Kenneth Melson, the former head of the ATF, and Deputy Assistant Atty. Gen. Jacob Weinstein – announced they were stepping down.

The 18-month IG investigation, the only independent review of Fast and Furious, also concluded that Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. had no prior knowledge of Fast and Furious, a position he has long held despite intense criticism from Republican lawmakers who earlier voted him in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over some Justice documents regarding Fast and Furious.

To read full story click here.

To read the full IG report click here.

Read Other Media Reports

Responses to IG Report:

Todd Jones

B. Todd Jones, Acting Director of ATF:

”ATF greatly appreciates the work done by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and believes that the OIG report is rightfully critical of ATF’s handling of the Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious investigations. ATF accepts full responsibility for its failure to exercise proper leadership and oversight of these investigations. Combined with the lack of effective and accurate internal communication up and down the chain of command, our shortcomings led to a series of regrettable events. As such, I have referred the findings of the OIG report to our Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations to determine if any adverse actions are warranted. The Privacy Act prohibits us from discussing any personnel actions related to those named in the report.”

”We are pleased that the DOJ OIG has acknowledged the reforms that my new leadership team has put into place since my appointment as Acting Director. We have taken corrective actions to ensure that something like this never happens again and we will continue to be vigilant in ensuring our investigations are conducted effectively and appropriately. We’ve made significant changes to ATF management and business practices, and we will make sure that this agency puts public safety first in all of our investigations.”

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.)

Sen. Grassley/official photo

“At first glance, the Inspector General’s report reaffirms virtually everything that Congressman Issa and I have already reported. Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters. And, we still don’t know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General.

“It’s clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious. They ignored warnings from employees, and frankly, failed to do their jobs. It took the death of our own Border Patrol Agent, action by a courageous whistleblower, and intense scrutiny from Congress before they even took note of what was happening under their own eyes. Even then, they wouldn’t come clean with how bad it really was until after they had sent a false letter and retracted it eight months later.

“It’s particularly discouraging that this all could have been stopped early on if people had just read the wiretap applications. The Inspector General noted that anybody reading those documents should have seen the red flags. The law requires that certain senior officials authorize those applications, and the Inspector General found that they did so without reading them. I’m glad that the OIG is joining me and Chairman Issa in urging the Justice Department to move to unseal the wiretap applications so that the American people can read them and make up their own minds.

“The President also appears to be abusing his authority to exert executive privilege. The White House rightly allowed the Inspector General to make public a small subset of the documents withheld from Congress under his claim of Executive Privilege, but it continues to shut out Congress’ access to the rest of the documents. It proves that this subset of documents could have been released earlier, and the President was merely thumbing his nose at Congress by claiming Executive Privilege on the eve of the contempt vote against Attorney General Holder for withholding the documents.

“It’s time to hold people accountable. Attorney General Holder is out of excuses for action.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif)

Rep. Issa/gov photo

“The Inspector General’s report confirms findings by Congress’ investigation of a near total disregard for public safety in Operation Fast and Furious. Contrary to the denials of the Attorney General and his political defenders in Congress, the investigation found that information in wiretap applications approved by senior Justice Department officials in Washington did contain red flags showing reckless tactics and faults Attorney General Eric Holder’s inner circle for their conduct.

“Former Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer who heads the Criminal Division, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, and Holder’s own Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson are all singled out for criticism in the report. It’s time for President Obama to step in and provide accountability for officials at both the Department of Justice and ATF who failed to do their jobs. Attorney General Holder has clearly known about these unacceptable failures yet has failed to take appropriate action for over a year and a half.”

Atty. General Eric Holder Jr.

file photo

  • “I have reviewed the Office of the Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious and the key conclusions are consistent with what I, and other Justice Department officials, have said for many months now:
  • The inappropriate strategy and tactics employed were field-driven and date back to 2006;
  •  The leadership of the Department did not know about or authorize the use of the flawed strategy and tactics; and
  • The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it.

“Beginning in 2011 – shortly after public concerns were first raised about Operation Fast and Furious – I referred this matter to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Throughout the next several months, I instituted significant policy reforms, stronger internal controls and made key personnel changes to prevent the flaws that plagued this investigation, as well as the earlier investigation, Operation Wide Receiver, from recurring. I’m pleased that the OIG report appropriately recognizes these reforms.

“Based upon the information in the OIG report and other related information, I am also announcing additional personnel changes today.

“First, Kenneth Melson, the former Acting Director at ATF, has retired from the Department, effective immediately. Ken has served the Department in several important roles for over thirty years, including as a United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and more recently as an advisor on forensic science issues. I want to thank him for his dedication and service to the Department over the last three decades.

“Second, those individuals within ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, whom the OIG report found to have been responsible for designing, implementing or supervising Operation Fast and Furious have been referred to the appropriate entities for review and consideration of potential personnel actions. Consistent with the requirements of the Privacy Act, the Department is prohibited from revealing any additional information about these referrals at this time.

“Finally, I have accepted the resignation of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, a longtime career prosecutor who most recently served in the Criminal Division where he led our violent and organized crime, computer crimes and intellectual property enforcement efforts. Jason has dedicated much of his career to fighting violent crime and has led highly successful efforts around the country in this effort. The American people are safer because of his work. His commitment to the Department has been unwavering, and I deeply appreciate his 15 years of distinguished service here at Main Justice as well as in Baltimore and New York.

“It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations – accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion. I hope today’s report acts as a reminder of the dangers of adopting as fact unsubstantiated conclusions before an investigation of the circumstances is completed.