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Archive for June, 2014

U.S. Senate Mulls House Measure That Would Crack Down on DEA Raids of Medical Marijuana

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Senate is considering a measure already approved by the House that would ban the DEA from using its budget to target marijuana users in states where cannabis is legal for medical purposes, the Huffington Post reports.

The amendment to the Justice Department’s budget was introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, who is calling for the feds to back off their zealous pursuit of pot in the 22 states where medical marijuana is legal.

Huffington Post writes that the amendment is gaining steam, with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., signing on as a co-sponsor.

“Poll after poll shows 70-80 percent of Americans support medical marijuana,” Marijuana Policy Project’s Dan Riffle said. “Even among conservatives, most oppose enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal for some purpose. Having two rising stars like Rand Paul and Cory Booker team up to introduce this amendment just shows how popular the issue has become, and that our outdated federal marijuana laws are inevitably going to change.”

The House last month voted 219-189 in favor of a similar amendment.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

Doomsday Man Surrenders After Spending 2 Days in Woods in Florida, Gets Cheeseburgers, Fries

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

After spending two days hiding from authorities in the woods, a Florida man accused of building explosive devices to prepare for the end of the world surrendered Wednesday without incident, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Martin Winters waited outside the FBI field office in Tampa while his attorneys arranged for his surrender.

In exchange, the 55-year-old received cheeseburgers, fries and dry shoes from the FBI.

“We’re glad to report that Mr. Winters did the right thing,” said FBI spokesman David Couvertier. “We were hoping for a peaceful resolution, and today we got that.”

The FBI was worried Winters would resort to violence to keep authorities from descending on him.

U.S. Captures Suspected Mastermind of Benghazi Attacks Without Firing a Single Bullet

Steve Neavling
ticklethwire.com

The alleged mastermind of the deadly Benghazi attack in 2012 has finally been captured – and not a single bullet was used, CNN reports.

U.S. commandos and law enforcement spent days monitoring Ahmed Abu Khatallah before his capture Tuesday.

Khatallah’s arrest is the first connected to the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. That attack killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens.

“We retain the option of adding additional charges in the coming days,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. “Even as we begin the process of putting (Abu) Khatallah on trial and seeking his conviction before a jury, our investigation will remain ongoing as we work to identify and arrest any co-conspirators.”

Judge: Even Convicted Terrorists Have Right to Call Friends, Relatives from Prison

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Even a convicted terrorist has a right to communicate with friends and relatives.

So ruled U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger in the case of Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, who sued the FBI because he was barred from communicating with a list of 32 friends and relatives, the Associated Press reports.

Mohammed, who is in federal prison in southern California, was convicted of killing 11 people and injuring 85 in the 1998 bombing of a U.S. embassy in Tanzania.

The judge said authorities couldn’t bar a prisoner from calling friends and family unless the inmate poses a real national security threat.

The FBI, the judge ruled, didn’t present sufficient evidence that Mohammed posed dangers while in prison.

Michigan Congresswoman Calls on President Obama to Dispatch National Guard to Address Immigration Crisis

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Michigan congresswoman is urging President Obama to dispatch the National Guard to address a growing humanitarian crisis involving tens of thousands of children illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Fox News reports.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Republican, urged the president in a letter to address the overcrowding along the border.

“I strongly urge you to call upon the National Guard to assist our overwhelmed border agents in not only addressing the unfolding humanitarian crisis, but also to assist our agents in defending our border against the violent drug cartels who are increasing smuggling operations as a result of this crisis,” wrote Miller, who is vice chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Since October, border patrol officials have apprehended more than 47,000 children – nearly twice the number captured this time last year.

“Rather than carrying out their regular duties, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and agents are put in the position of providing basic child care,” Miller said in her letter. “This diversion away from normal patrol responsibilities will result in an increase of drugs and migrants illicitly crossing our border.”

ATF Sees Major Upswing in Recovered, Traced Machine Guns in Pennsylvania

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The ATF recovered and traced more machine guns in Pennsylvania than in the past four years combined, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The ATF issued the alarming report, which states that the ATF reported 132 machine gun traces in the past year in Pennsylvania. By contrast, the agency traced 110 machine guns between 2009 and 2012.

The ATF defines a machine gun as “any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”

In Pennsylvania, adults can obtain permits to own machine guns. The state has 17,714 such permits.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Pennsylvania Attorney General Launches Innovative Program Around the State to Battle Heroin Tied to Mexican Cartels

Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane

By Jeffrey Anderson

An emerging crime initiative by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane is deploying mobile street crimes units to small cities and towns in her state to tackle an escalating heroin problem tied to Mexican drug cartels.

The strategy, quietly launched last year with the help of a $2.5 million state appropriation, is based on street-level busts by agents with the Bureau of Narcotics Investigations who are embedded for months in a single location, where they build from the ground up a database that allows them to go after larger, more organized criminal elements that have taken over struggling, post-industrial municipalities along the I-80 and I-81 trucking corridors, conveniently located to major drug hubs such as New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

After a 5-month deployment in Hazleton, PA, that concluded in February, the Mobile Street Crimes Unit, which received cooperation from the DEA and the FBI, netted 35,000 bags of heroin, 120 arrests, 97 criminal cases and confiscation of guns, vehicles, cash, and jewelry – in a town of 33,000 which has just 38 police officers.

Before decamping for a new location to work with another set of local law enforcers, the unit, identified on their vests only as “POLICE,” leaves behind the criminal database it has built along with its more sophisticated drug enforcement strategies for the locals to employ.

Congressman Lou Barletta,  a Republican from Pennsylvania’s 11th District — and former mayor of Hazleton —  who is on the House Homeland Security Committee and the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, predicts that Pennsylvania could be the vanguard for a new way of thinking about the use of state resources to confront what is ultimately a national — if not international — problem.

“For anyone in Congress who has been a mayor, they understand very well how these things are tied to drug cartels,” Barletta says. “They know damn well that it’s an endless battle, and that if you take a drug dealer off the street there’s three more waiting to take his place. It’s like drinking water through a firehose.

“The biggest challenge now is to give the local chief of police the resources he needs to keep going, because these cities are cash-strapped,” Barletta continues. “That’s where the feds can play a role. I think we can do a better job there. The unit is going to get attention. And when other states see what is happening they’ll want to replicate it.”

State Senator John Yudichak, a Democrat who represents Carbon County and parts of Luzerne County, says that in 2013, just 60 percent of the 99 cities in the area with a population less than 5,000 had a full-time police force. Today just 6 percent of those same cities do.

“It’s perfectly suited for a drug distribution network, with such a limited presence of law enforcement,” says Yudichak, who championed the initiative in the State Capital with support from Rep. Barletta and others. “We wanted to take the ‘D’ and the ‘R’ of politics out of it and we needed state and federal assistance. We needed to break down silos and get the community engaged. People were in a bed of denial.”

The force behind the initiative is Attorney General Kane, a former street level prosecutor in Lackawanna County, who came into office promising a fresh approach to beating back the ravages of heroin that had overcome towns such as Hazleton.

With 2,500 municipalities splashed across a mostly rural state of 12.7 million people, Kane describes Pennsylvania as a “good place for drug cartels to do business.”

Early on, however, she saw a lack of coordination between local and federal agencies that had created a vacuum for those cartels to exploit.

“No one played well together,” she says. “It was like a T-ball game, where everyone jumps on the ball and parents are cheering with delight. Those days are over. We’re cultivating an environment that puts ego aside. It’s not about credit for a bust. We can’t go on simply chasing dealers off the street then stop.”

While neither a typical drug task force nor simply a community-based approach, the unit nonetheless is a grassroots idea that Hazleton Police Chief Frank DeAndrea says cuts against the grain of “what everyone else is doing.”

DeAndrea says that in the past, the DEA and FBI have utilized his officers as members of a task force that generates proceeds from seizures to fund future investigations, all while his city is drowning under a wave of heroin being fed by cartels and powerful street gangs.

“We have 39 gangs and 38 officers,” he says. “We’re broke, and overmatched. It’s like a high school team going up against an NFL team.”

DeAndrea insists that he wasn’t “seeing the ball move” with the FBI and DEA – until Kane and the Mobile Street Crimes Unit came into the picture.

The feds have expressed support for the idea and have collaborated with the unit, but any partnership is still a work in progress. A Washington-based spokesman for the DEA says, “We don’t have the resources to focus on small-time local yokels that produce limited impact. Our resources are limited too. We have to be careful when evaluating a potential investigation to get a bang for the buck.”

The full story is posted on Lawdragon.com. Click here to read.

 About the author: Jeffrey Anderson is a veteran feature writer and award-winning investigative reporter from Washington, D.C. He previously has worked at the Los Angeles Daily Journal, L.A. Weekly, Baltimore City Paper and The Washington Times. He can be reached at byjeffreyanderson@gmail.com.

Jackson FBI’s First Black Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen Plans Retirement Just Short of Office’s 50th Anniversary

Daniel McMullen/FBI photo

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Daniel McMullen, the first black special agent in charge of Jackson’s FBI office, has announced his retirement.

“As a person with an interest in history itself and the history of the civil rights movement and an understanding of where Mississippi was in the history of civil rights, I find it very interesting now that I am where I am,” he said recently, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

The Jackson field office, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in July, was reestablished following the deaths of civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

“From being a student of history, reading about these historical figures, and then to meet them,” McMullen said. “Charles and Myrlie Evers, Gov. William Winter, James Meredith. Some of the Freedom Riders I’ve met — there are so many folks that lived it, and to hear what the world was like back then, and the multiple narratives about the role of the FBI. Where you stand on the issues definitely depends on where you sit.”

But McMullen, who also worked in New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, went far beyond civil rights issues. One case involved the kidnapping of Alexandria and Kyliyah Bain in 2012 and tracking down the man responsible – Adam Mayes.

“He was one of our top 10 fugitives,” McMullen said. “That provided a tremendous example of how law enforcement can cooperate in response to a critical incident.”

Correction: In an earlier version, Daniel McMullen’s name was spelled incorrectly.