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How to Become a Bounty Hunter



Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel, editor of ticklethewire.com, is  a veteran journalist who has covered law enforcement at major publications including the Washington Post and the Detroit News. He also served as an intern under the late investigative columnist Jack Anderson and was an adjunct journalism professor at the University of Maryland.

Lengel: Michigan School Shootings a Reminder that America Loves its Guns More Than Its Children

By Allan Lengel

Some thought the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012 would be the horrific event that would lead to true gun-law reform. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza used his mother’s Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle to kill 26 people, 20 of them children no older than 8. Earlier in the day, he murdered his mother at home. After his shooting spree, he killed himself.

But nothing happened. No gun reform. No legislative ban on assault rifles. Nothing. The National Rifle Association dug in its heels, as did the nation’s many, many gun lovers, saying America needed to find ways to improve school security and address mental health, not gun reform and violence.  

“Rather than face their own moral failings the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws, and fill the national media with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action, and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away,” NRA head Wayne LaPierre said at a press conference after that shooting.

On Tuesday, in suburban Detroit, a 15-year-old Oxford High School sophomore shot and killed four students and wounded six others and a teacher.

Again, nothing will happen — not in Lansing, not in Washington.

Why?

Because America loves its guns far more than its children.

Gun culture and politics runs deep in this country. The NRA throws its weight around in Washington like a sumo wrestler. Cross the NRA, particularly in certain states, and kiss your political career goodbye. In Washington, a nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the chief enforcer of our nation’s federal gun laws, can’t get Senate approval without the NRA’s blessing. That explains why the agency has lacked a permanent director for six years

NRA ad

Michigan Native

David Chipman, a former ATF official, is the latest, example. President Biden nominated him this year to head the agency.
NRA ad on Facebook

But Chipman, in the eyes of gun lovers, has a big hurdle: He became a gun control advocate after leaving the agency and was named a senior policy adviser for the Washington-based organization called Giffords: Court to Fight Gun Violence. The group was founded by  Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in a 2011 mass shooting in suburban Tucson.

A man with a 9mm pistol, like that used in the Oxford shootings, shot 19 people and killed six, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old child.

Imagine Chipman’s chutzpah, to be affiliated with an anti-gun violence organization and wanting to head an agency that enforces our gun laws to make us safer. After seeing he didn’t have enough Senate support, Biden in September withdrew the nomination.

Our gun laws are so inadequate, full of more loopholes than a giant corporation’s tax forms. Although the Oxford shooting involved a semiautomatic pistol, most U.S. mass shootings involve assault rifles, which no one outside of the military needs.

In the Oxford case, we know the father of accused shooter Ethan Crumbley bought a 9mm handgun four days before the shooting. We assume he easily purchased the gun, and from reports, likely knew his son was using it. The parents have gotten their son a lawyer and no one in the family is talking.

Talk or not talk, the kid is screwed because many students, teachers and cameras saw his spree. Being bullied or breaking up with a girlfriend – if either of those played a role – are irrelevant. Those hiding from legal responsibility at this point are his parents, who should be worried about criminal liability. 

What we’ve yet to hear from any member of the family is a public apology. That’s not asking too much.

Days Before Shootings

I’ve covered mass shootings like this for years. Often, the killer buys his weapon at a local gun shop with ease days before the shooting. The weapons of choice are almost always assault rifles and 9 mm pistols.

The NRA makes it easy for people to get them. (And by the way, for all the NRA’s blather after Sandy Hook about mental health, nothing has been done to make it easier for troubled young people to get mental-health services. As for school security, how many parents want their children entering school through a metal detector. How many want to see teachers carrying sidearms?)

When are we going to fund agencies like ATF to fully enforce laws, give politicians backbones to stand up to the NRA and let our lawmakers create effective legislation to ban assault weapons and make it tougher for just anyone to obtain a gun?

When?

When America starts loving its children more than its guns.


Commentator Frank Figliuzzi Fabricated Passage in FBI Book and MSNBC Could Care Less


By Allan Lengel

To NBC News and its sister station MSNBC, being truthful doesn’t always matter. And that’s the truth.

Starting with my high school journalism teacher Robert Jackson, I learned that the truth in journalism was sacred. Intentionally straying from it had grave consequences. That has held true through my many years in journalism, from the Detroit News to the Washington Post.    

Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI official-turned-commentator for NBC and MSNBC, is a reminder that things in the media have changed, and not for the better.

Figliuzzi, who retired from the FBI in 2012 as a former assistant director of counterintelligence, has become the go-to guy for both networks, particularly on matters of ethics in government. He regularly delivers his commentary with a solemn G-man look. 

Problem is, he published a book earlier this year, “The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence,” that contained a passage made out of whole cloth. It simply wasn’t true. Perhaps a bit ironic considering the book is about ethics.

Both NBC and the FBI have capitalized on Figliuzzi’s growing popularity to help their brand.  So, they’ve chosen to ignore the lie and look the other way. Figliuzzi also has a podcast, “The Bureau With Frank Figliuzzi,” in which the FBI provides agents for him to interview and promote the work and image of the agency. 

Frank Figliuzzi

Strip Search

I’ve written articles on Figliuzzi’s fabrication in his book for ticklethewire.com, citing eight current and former FBI agents who were eyewitnesses — all of whom told me emphatically that Figliuzzi’s account in his book about a 1999 incident involving agents was simply false – a big lie.

Figliuzzi wrote that he ordered a strip-search of two agents because the boxes they were transporting with millions of dollars in seized Miami drug money in a Brink’s truck weren’t sealed properly and the agents were “making it rain” — throwing money in the air in the back of the vehicle. Tampering with evidence in the FBI would be a big deal — if only it was true.

It was not. For one, there was only one FBI agent in the back. Two, no money was flying. Everything was intact. It appears he lied in the book to make the highly-questionable strip search look jusified even though the bureau itself found it disturbing enough that it launched an internal probe into his actions that were forever known in FBI offices around the country as “Stripgate.” 

The NBC News division has ignored repeated requests from me for comment via email and phone. The FBI, when asked about the fabrication and its ties to Figliuzzi’s podcast, declined comment.
Frank Figliuzzi’s podcast

Figliuzzi responded to my requests for comment back in July by repeatedly lying about the lie and feigning indignation when I confronted him. 

“I stand by my account. Call me a liar in print at your legal peril.” He also wrote: “I suggest you cease and desist with the false angles you are portraying.”

NBC has had to deal with questions of truthfulness in the past. In 2015, the network suspended star evening news anchor Brian Williams for six months after he went around telling a fabricated story about his coverage of the Iraq war. He was eventually released from purgatory, but relegated to the 11 p.m. slot on MSNBC, never to return to the coveted evening news job.

In this case, Figliuzzi outright made something up, and the NBC News division has done nothing. No apologies. No public reprimand. Nothing.

Retired FBI agent Gary Rizzo, who witnessed the 1999 incident referenced in Figiluizzi’s book,  simply told me: “Absolutely didn’t happen. It’s just a complete fabrication.”

The fabrication in Figliuzzi’s book involves the 1999 raid of a Miami home linked to a violent and legendary Cuban-American drug cartel that killed witnesses and bribed jurors. FBI agent Stephen Lawrence climbed into the attic and found $9 million in boxes. A Brink’s truck was summoned to transport the money in the boxes to the Miami Field Office.

Figliuzzi has a podcast

Brink’s Truck

To keep a chain of custody, Lawrence jumped into the back of the truck with a Brink’s guard. In front, a  Brink’s guard drove and another FBI agent sat in the passenger seat. Multiple FBI agents escorted the truck in bureau vehicles.

As they pulled up to the FBI office, the Brink’s guard in the back crawled out a side door. A couple minutes later, with multiple agents standing around, the back door opened and Lawrence, the only person in the back, stepped out. The boxes and money were intact.

But Figliuzzi wrote:

“Inside the back of the truck on this sweltering sauna of a Miami day, were two very proud and perspiring agents who had just found the most money they had ever seen in their relatively young lives. In fact, they were so happy and eager to show their bosses the fruits of their labor that they were ‘making it rain’ inside that truck. Loose bills were cascading from the agent’s hands in a shower onto the floor of the vehicle.“

Figliuzzi, who was an assistant special agent in charge of the office at the time, was upset the boxes weren’t taped shut and ordered the two agents to be strip-searched. No money was found.

At the time, there was never any mention of money flying around.

The FBI launched an internal investigation into Figliuzzi and his boss for conducting the humiliating strip search. After a year, he was supposedly cleared but the incident was a blemish on his career.  The strip-search only made the fairly unpopular supervisor even less popular in the bureau.  

Changed Version

After a back-and-forth with me, Figluizzi got the publisher to change the ebook version to:

“On this sweltering sauna of a Miami day, were two very proud and perspiring agents who had just found the most money they had ever seen in their relatively young lives. In fact, they were happy and eager to show their bosses the fruits of their labor. They reached into open boxes and displayed the cash in their hands, then let it drop back down.”

Again it was still a lie. I went back to all eight agents I interviewed and asked them if the modified version was any more accurate.

“He’s full of shit,” retired FBI agent Ed Knapp, another  eyewitness, responded. “He should have removed the whole section. He should have said, ‘I screwed up. I’m sorry.’”

Figliuzzi never mentions in the book the name of the agent, Lawrence, who was in the back of the Brink’s truck. But Lawrence, who is now an FBI agent in Los Angeles, tells me he’s certain hundreds of agents knew Figliuzzi was referring to him.

“I challenge Figliuzzi to find one credible witness who can corroborate his version,” Lawrence told me in July. “There’s only one version of the truth and it never changes.  Perhaps he should consider practicing what he’s preached – be truthful and accept responsibility.”

Sadly, no one – not NBC and not Figluizzi will own up to the lie and accept responsibility. So, Figliuizzi continues to represent the station as a voice of integrity.

And that’s a very sad commentary on the value of truth in some news organizations these days.

 


Here’s Why Chuckie O’Brien Deserves A Clearance Letter in Hoffa Murder

Featured_chuckie_o_brien_10_39380
Chuckie O’Brien in Florida in 2018. (Family photo)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s time for the feds to give Chuckie O’Brien a letter of clearance that says he’s no longer a suspect in Jimmy Hoffa’s murder.

Why? Because the evidence is overwhelming.

For nearly 45 years, a cloud has hung over O’Brien, Hoffa’s confidante, “surrogate son,” driver, gofer and conduit to the mob. O’Brien, now 85 and in declining health, lives in Boca Raton, Fla.

Shortly after Hoffa’s disappearance July 30, 1975, O’Brien was named as a suspect by the FBI, something he’s had to live with ever since. For decades, the feds theorized that O’Brien picked Hoffa up outside the Machus Red Fox restaurant on Telegraph Road and drove him to his death. Hoffa was supposed to meet Detroit mobster Anthony Giacalone, who never showed for lunch.

Now his stepson, Jack Goldsmith, a former Justice Department official who teaches law at Harvard, has written “In Hoffa’s Shadow,” a book that lays out a pretty convincing case – including a timeline of his whereabouts that day – that O’Brien couldn’t have been involved.

Of course, O’Brien was no Boy Scout and was described by the FBI in 1976 as a pathological liar. Still, the facts strongly favor him.

The 368-page book, released in fall, has interviews with ex-FBI agents and a current federal prosecutor who believe O’Brien had nothing to do with the murder. Some, including current Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric M. Straus, had hoped to give O’Brien the letter officially clearing him of the crime.

But in 2014, after several years of trying, Goldsmith writes that then-U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade nixed the idea. She declined to comment for Deadline Detroit, as did the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Hoffa, 62 when he disappeared, had been released from prison in 1971 and was bent on reclaiming his throne as Teamster president. And he was willing to do almost anything, including expose the mob’s ties to the union and its pension fund, which organized crime essentially used as its private bank for loans. Some predicted Hoffa would get killed crossing the mob, which was happy with the leadership of Frank Fitzsimmons. They were right.

On the day he vanished, Hoffa was supposed to meet Anthony Giacalone for lunch at the Machus Red Fox. Giacalone not only stood him up, he made sure everyone saw him hanging out at the Southfield Athletic Club.

O’Brien surfaced as a suspect quickly.

New Agent on the Case

FBI agent Andrew Sluss, now retired, picked up the case in 2003.

He entered the investigation with the institutional belief that O’Brien was the likely wheelman for Hoffa’s last ride. But “within a year,” Goldsmith writes, “Sluss had concluded that this belief was erroneous and that Chuckie was not at the Machus Red Fox parking lot that afternoon. …Sluss also apparently studied the timeline of Chuckie’s activities during the afternoon of July 30 more carefully than the original investigators, and concluded that it was practically impossible for Chuckie to have picked up Hoffa…based on his known whereabouts that afternoon.”

As for Goldsmith’s account of the Hoffa investigation, Sluss tells Deadline Detroit: “I think it’s 100 percent accurate.” And he says with “no hesitation” that O’Brien is entitled to be formally exonerated with a letter.

Read more »


The FBI Will Survive the Inspector General Report

Former FBI Director James Comey

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Dramatic headlines in the media may suggest otherwise, but truth be told, the long-awaited report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz contains few surprises.

Yes, we already knew ex-FBI Director James Comey stepped over the line at his press conference about not charging Hillary Clinton, and yes, we already knew he violated Department of Justice protocol by sending the infamous letter to Congress about reopening the email probe shortly before the election. And we already knew Comey thought his Boy Scout image trumped (no pun intended) the bigger picture: The presidential election. And we  knew that FBI agent Peter Strzok, a key investigator in the Clinton and Russian probes,  exchanged emails that were anti-Trump.

The 500-page report, an exhaustive one at that, includes damaging emails from Strzok that will give Trump plenty fodder for his late night twitter rants. Perhaps most damning is an email from Strzok in August 2016, shortly before the election. He wrote to an FBI lawyer, saying  “we’ll stop” Trump from making it to the White House.

Trump’s “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” the lawyer, Lisa Page, wrote to Strzok, who was romantically involved with.

“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok wrote.

Ok, there was some little surprises. The report found that Comey had used his personal email for such things as sending himself a draft of a speech. The report found the practice was inconsistent with with DOJ policy, and certainly, it’s ironic considering he blasted Hillary Clinton for using personal email at the State Department. Still, it should be noted that it doesn’t appear he used personal email for classified info.

The report found that there was no evidence of bias inside the FBI to rig the Clinton investigation, which should come as a disappointment to the president and his allies, who figured that was a certainty.

Institutions like the FBI survive these things. The FBI has had its share of troubles over the decades. Ditto for agencies like ATF. That agency   has survived such messes as Waco and Operation Fast and Furious.

To show resolve shortly after the report was released, FBI agent Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association, issued a statement:

“FBI Special Agents put their lives on the line each and every day to protect the American public from national security and criminal threats.  The Inspector General’s (IG) report found no bias in the investigation.  It shows that Agents perform their duties with a focus on complying with the law and the Constitution.

“We support, as always, the Bureau reviewing and utilizing its policies and disciplinary processes to help ensure that we remain the world’s premier law enforcement organization.  We also reiterate that attacks on our character and demeaning comments about the FBI will not deter Agents from continuing to do what we have always done––dedicate our lives to protecting the American people.”

 It’s seldom good news when a federal law enforcement agency comes under such scrutiny. But ultimately it sends a positive message to the American people that no person or agency is beyond reproach.

In any event, this too shall pass.

Read the Full Report.


Rudy Giuliani’s Fear of a Perjury Trap is Pure Nonsense

Donald Trump, via Wikipedia

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Former N.Y. Mayor and Rudy Giuliani, who served as U.S. Attorney from 1983-89, is going around telling everyone who will listen that he fears Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is trying to set a perjury trap for President Donald Trump.

“The reality is we’re not going to sit him down if it’s a trap for perjury,” Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, tells Fox News.  “And until we’re convinced of that … we’re just going to have to say no.”

“Let me emphasize,” Giuliani added, “he wants to explain that he did nothing wrong.”

Let’s simply say this: You can’t be guilty of perjury if you tell the truth.

The truth is that Trump has had a problem at times distinguishing between truth and alternative facts.

All the president has to do is tell the truth.

Simple as that.

Perjury is charge for people who lie.

The truth is a great defense against perjury.


Trump’s Remarks Point to A Bumpy Road for Jeff Sessions and Christopher Wray

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Heading up a major law enforcement agency like the Justice Department or FBI is never easy. It’s a major headache. There’s always a crisis around the corner.

Keeping your job and doing it with integrity has only been more challenging under the Trump administration. Don’t count on Jeff Sessions sticking around as Attorney General for all too long, and expect Christopher Wray to face endless ethical dilemmas dealing with President Donald Trump after his confirmation as FBI director.

The president’s remarks to the New York Times give a pretty clear indication of tumultuous times ahead for the two.

Trump tells  the paper that he would never have hired Sessions had he known he was going to recuse himself in the probe into Russia.

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump said.

Everyone, perhaps except Trump, realizes Sessions had no choice considering he was in the the inner circle of the Trump campaign in 2016, and he met with Russian officials. It was a no-brainer for Sessions, and frankly, had he not, he would have been under great pressure on the Hill and from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to recuse himself.

Then there’s the comment about the FBI director.

“The FBI person really reports to the president of the United States,” Trump said in what clearly is an untrue statement. Sure, the FBI director can brief the president on a regular basis, but he doesn’t answer to the president, at least not in the way Trump thinks.

The FBI’s website states, “Within the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI is responsible to the attorney general, and it reports its findings to U.S. Attorneys across the country. The FBI’s intelligence activities are overseen by the Director of National Intelligence.”

Trump won’t have a very hard time pushing Sessions out. That seems to be a certainty.

But considering he’s already fired one FBI director, Trump will have a tough time firing a second one without catching hell from Congress and the American people.

These are challenging and complicated times for law enforcement.

What isn’t complicated is doing the right thing and not bending to pressures from the White House.

President Nixon tried undermining the justice system, and we know justice prevailed.


Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, The Canary in the Coal Mine, Already Gasping for Air

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general.

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former U.S. Attorney from Baltimore, is the canary in the coal mine for the Justice Department. In very short time, in that role, he’s already gasping for breath, having been put smack in the middle of the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

The phrase “canary in the coal mine” refers to caged canaries miners would carry down into the mine tunnels. If dangerous gases collected, the gases would kill the canaries before killing the miners. In this case, the dangerous gases could be the dubious demands by President Donald Trump that could compromise the Justice Department, and ultimately kill the canary’s government career.

Skeptics of the Trump administration have always expected that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would play politics and try to please his boss, the president.  But Rosenstein, a career prosecutor who has worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has a reputation as a straight shooter. The expectation is that he’ll stand up and say no if Trump tries to compromise the department. If Trump pushes too far and won’t back off, everyone assumes he’ll get fired or quit.

But very quickly, he’s already gasping for air.

Rosenstein authored a letter for the president detailing how Comey acted inappropriately during the Hillary Clinton email probe and implied he should be fired, but never said it outright. Trump then shot off a letter to Comey, saying he was going by the recommendation of Rosenstein and Sessions to fire him. Skeptics found it hard to swallow that Trump had concerns for Clinton.

Yellow canary - Serinus canaria on its perch in front of a white background

Rosenstein apparently felt duped, or at least that’s how it’s being portrayed in the press.

The Washington Post reported that Rosenstein threatened to “resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

People will be closely observing, paying close attention to see if  the chirping continues to come from Rosenstein’s new office at Justice, or whether at some point, it’s silenced.

 


Sally Yates Sends the Right Message to the Trump White House

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates wasn’t going to be around very long at the Justice Department considering she was a holdover from the Obama administration.

Nonetheless, she should be commended for standing up to President Donald Trump, who implemented an executive order that was poorly thought out and executed.

Hopefully she has set a tone and a message to the White House: Federal law enforcement will not compromise its principles when asked to do something that violates the law.

It’s not likely to be the last time the administration directs federal law enforcement officials to do something questionable.

The president on Tuesday, when announcing his Supreme Court nominee, talked about the importance of the Constitution and the rule of law. We should take him at his word that he places great importance on upholding the law, not bending or breaking it.

In the coming months and years, some law enforcement officials may be forced to make a choice between doing the right thing for the country or keeping their jobs and following a White House order.

Hopefully they’ll do the right thing.

They can always get another job.

They can’t always get another reputation.