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Archive for October, 2021

40% of TSA Employees Face Potential Termination As Vaccine Deadline Looms

By Steve Neavling

About 40% of TSA’s workforce remains unvaccinated and could be terminated if they don’t roll up their sleeves by the Nov. 22 deadline. 

TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN that he’s “very hopeful” that the agency’s roughly 24,000 employees will meet the deadline. But for those who don’t, there are “contingency plans” being developed, he said.

“We have about 60 percent of our workforce has been vaccinated, that that number needs to go quite a bit higher over the next few weeks,” Pekoske said. “We are building contingency plans for if we do have some staffing shortages as a result of this, but I hope to avoid that.”

Pekoske is using town hall meetings to encourage employees to get vaccinated. 

But it may be too late for some employees. The Moderna vaccine, for example, is administered four weeks apart. It takes another two weeks for the patient to be considered fully vaccinated. 

The deadline, created by President Biden’s administration, comes just before the busy Thanksgiving travel period. 

Fired McCabe Wins Back Pension 3 Years After Trump Fired Him Just Before Retirement

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired just hours before his scheduled retirement in 2018, won back his pension and other benefits. 

McCabe filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department in August 2019, saying he was unjustly terminated at the “unlawful whims” of then-President Donald Trump. McCabe initiated special counsel’s Russia investigation, which Trump baselessly called a “witch hunt.”

On Thursday, McCabe reached a settlement with the Justice Department, which rescinded his dismissal and allowed him to retire with full pension benefits, The Washington Post reports.

“Politics should never play a role in the fair administration of justice and civil service personnel decisions,” McCabe said in a statement through the Arnold & Porter law firm. “. . . I hope that this result encourages the men and women of the FBI to continue to protect the American people by standing up for the truth and doing their jobs without fear of political retaliation.”

One of the firm’s attorney, Murad Hussain, said civil servants have a duty to the Constitution, not a political party or individual. 

“This settlement and the district court’s rulings make clear that attempts to corrupt the federal workforce through partisan intimidation and improper political influence will not go unanswered,” Hussain said.

TSA Seizes Record Number of Guns at Airport Checkpoints This Year

By Steve Neavling

The TSA seized a record number of guns at airport security checkpoints this year, with three months left in 2021 and fewer passengers traveling due to COVID-19. 

In the first nine months of this year, TSA officers stopped 4,495 passengers who tried to carry firearms through checkpoints, setting a 20-year record. The previous record was 4,432 in 2019. 

A decade ago, 1,320 guns were seized. 

“The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them.”

It’s not entirely clear why more travelers are bringing guns to airports. 

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport led the nation in gun seizures at 391 this year, followed by Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with 232 and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston with 168, the agency said.

Eric Velez-Villar Named Assistant Director of Office of Private Sector at FBI Headquarters

Special Agent Eric Velez-Villar

By Steve Neavling

Retired Special Agent Eric Velez-Villar has been named assistant director of the Office of Private Sector at FBI headquarters. 

The Office of Private Sector operates under the FBI Intelligence Branch and is tasked with strengthening partnerships between the bureau and the private sector.

Before becoming a special agent in 1992, Velez-Villar began his FBI career as a computer scientist in the San Juan Field Office in Puerto Rico. As a special agent, he investigated organized crime and drug cases in the McAllen Resident Agency of the San Antonio Field Office in Texas. 

In 1997, he transferred to the San Juan office and investigated public corruption cases and violent crimes.

In 2000, Velez-Villar became a supervisory special agent in the Drug Section of the Criminal Investigative Division at FBI headquarters. He was detailed to the DEA for two years.

In 2002, he transferred to the Santa Ana Resident Agency of the Los Angeles Field Office, where he investigated organized crime. He was later reassigned to supervise the Orange County Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). 

In 2004, Velez-Villar was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Los Angeles counterterrorism program, where he oversaw three regional JTTFs. In 2006, Velez-Villar was promoted to deputy director of the Terrorist Screening Center before returning to Los Angeles as special agent in charge of the office’s Intelligence Division in 2007. 

In 2009, he was named deputy assistant director in the Directorate of Intelligence at FBI headquarters, in charge of the Intelligence Operations Branch.

In 2012, he became assistant director of the Directorate of Intelligence and was promoted to executive assistant director of the Intelligence Branch in 2014. 

After retiring in 2016, Velez-Villar worked as vice president for security at the Walt Disney Company and established a security consulting firm.

Velez-Villar received a bachelor’s degree from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico and an MBA from the University of Southern California.

Wray told Schiff He’d Resign Before Doing ‘Something That Wasn’t Right’ for Trump

FBI Director Christopher Wray in Atlanta. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

FBI Director Chris Wray was prepared to step down if then-President Trump demanded he do “something that wasn’t right.”

That’s according to U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff in his new memoir, “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could,” Business Insider reports.

“In one of our first meetings, I had warned (Wray) about how many good people the president had chewed up and spat out,” Schiff wrote.

“I don’t need this job,” Wray responded, according to the book. “And I would leave it before I ever felt the need to do something that wasn’t right.”

Schiff described Wray as “one of the few remaining agency heads appointed by Trump who was still willing to speak truth to power.”

Schiff, who was the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said Wray “defended the men and women of the bureau, answered questions in a straightforward manner, and never dissembled.”

“He didn’t go out of his way to contradict the president, but he nonetheless maintained a high level of integrity,” Schiff wrote.

Questions Raised about Discipline for High-Ranking U.S. Marshals Allegedly Caught in At-Work Rendezvous

By Steve Neavling

Two high-ranking officials with the U.S. Marshals Service are accused of having sex at the agency’s Virginia headquarters, and a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of federal employees wants more information on the alleged tryst.  

The Federal Managers Association is exploring how the “senior” officials were disciplined compared to rank-and-file employees, The New York Post reports.

The group sought more details of the alleged rendezvous in a Freedom of Information Act request. 

“The more specific recent activity we seek documentation on involves serious allegations of sexual misconduct by two agency employees within the senior ranks, purportedly at the Agency’s headquarters complex (i.e. in taxpayer funded office space), that may have occurred on official time,” states the letter, referring to the Marshals headquarters in Arlington, Va.

In the request, FMA wrote that employees are concerned about the “evenhandedness” of discipline. 

“A high number of managers across the workforce have raised as a concern the evenhandedness with which the Agency applies discipline between executives and rank and file. This particular case is being cited as an example where it may not be occurring,” FMA wrote in the Sept. 28 request.

The at-work tryst allegedly occurred in June or July. The officials are not identified. 

One of the officials was granted “extended special leave.”

“We are most interested in understanding if the approval pre-dated the employee’s alleged sexual activity with who we understand to be a lower-grade employee also assigned to the headquarters complex,” FMA wrote. 

The U.S. Marshals declined to comment on the specific allegations. 

“As a federal law enforcement agency, the U.S. Marshals Service demands high standards of personal conduct from our employees,” spokesman Drew Wade wrote in an email. “We take seriously any allegation of misconduct by our personnel.

“As a matter of policy, USMS does not discuss personnel matters. However, all credible allegations are investigated and appropriate disciplinary actions are taken, if warranted.”

Tucson Police Investigate Fatal Shooting by Off-Duty Border Patrol Agent

By Steve Neavling

Tucson police are investigating a fatal shooting by an off-duty Border Patrol agent. 

The unidentified agent shot 38-year-old Edward Colin Colteaux, who was involved in an escalating confrontation with another person on Tucson’s west side on Saturday night, KVOA reports.

Details of the shooting remain murky. Witnesses said they saw the agent intervene and discharge his gun while Colteaux was in a confrontation. 

Border Patrol is conducting an administrative investigation. 

In a separate incident, a prosecutor said that members of a U.S. Marshals task force were justified in shooting Winston Smith Jr. on June 3 while trying to arrest him as he sat in an SUV.

Retired Executive Assistant Director of FBI Is Driving a School Bus to Help with Shortage

Michael Mason, retired executive assistant director of the FBI. Screenshot via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

Michael Mason, a retired executive assistant director of the FBI, could be traveling or playing golf after a long, successful career. 

Instead, Mason recently began driving a school bus in Chesterfield County, Virginia, CBS affiliate WTVR reports.

Mason decided to get behind the wheel after hearing about a shortage in school bus drivers. 

“When the pandemic struck there were so many people that were doing so many extra things. People like you who still have to get out here. People like grocery store workers. People like telecommunications workers. All kinds of folks who still had to do their job,” Mason said. “And I felt like I can be doing something to help in this post-pandemic recovery.”

Mason retired from the FBI in 2007 and worked as chief security officer for Verizon from 2008 to 2020 before retiring.

Chesterfield County Public School cast Mason in a promotional video

Mason said he’s just doing his part to make the world a little better.

“I believe if all of us gave a little something,” he said. “Wow, how we could impact the world. How we could change the world.”

Mason worked for the FBI for 23 years and served as special agent in charge of the Sacramento Division and assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office.