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Ex-U.S. Atty. Dennis Burke Fesses Up to Leaking Document About ATF Whistleblower


U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ex-Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke has admitted that he leaked a sensitive document about an ATF agent, who was a whistleblower in the latest mess known as Operation Fast and Furious, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia).

In a press release, Grassley stated that the leaked document was “deemed so sensitive by the Justice Department that it was not provided to Congress, except in a secured room at department headquarters.”

The leak pertained to John Dodson, an ATF agent who testified before Congress about his failed attempts to try and get the agency to stop the gun walking practice of Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to Mexican cartels.

“Leaking sensitive documents to the press and retaliating against whistleblowers is not good faith cooperation with Congress,” Grassley said in a statement. “The Justice Department confirmed that the Inspector General continues to investigate the leak which means there are others who may be involved in drafting and distributing the talking points and document to the press.”

In a Nov. 8 letter to the Justice Department Inspector General’s Office,  and posted on Politico, Burke’s attorney Lee Stein of Phoenix stated:

“As Dennis told your office on August 16, 2011, he provided the memo to a reporter he had known for some time in response to the reporter’s request. The reporter, who initiated the contact with Dennis, was working on several stories involving Operation Fast and Furious.

“It was clear to Dennis from their conversation that the reporter had either seen the memo or had it read to him.

“Dennis’s intention was to give context to information that the reporter already had to explain that investigations similar to Operation Fast and Furious had been previously proposed by ATF.  The investigation proposed by Agent Dodson was closed, and the memo did not contain any Grand Jury or otherwise classified information.”

FBI Plans to Shut Down 3 Offices in Wisconsin

Sen. Kohl/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI’s footprint in Wisconsin could be shrinking.

The agency plans to close three of its seven offices in the state, according to a press release by Sen. Herb Kohl’s office.

The Wisconsin Democrat raised the issue on Tuesday to Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr., who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The offices that would be closed include:Wausau, Kenosha and La Crosse.

“If these closures go through, the Western District of Wisconsin will lose half of its FBI offices and may have to make do with fewer agents,” Kohl said at the hearing. “I have serious concerns about the ability of the remaining two offices to adequately support already underserved rural areas.”

 

Couple Sentenced in Pregnancy Scam

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

She was perhaps the only lady not carrying for whom you might ask, “how many months along are you?” without being slapped in the face.

Serena Carol Mathews, 42, and boyfriend Scott Thomas Smith, 34, of Oklahoma City, were sentenced to 27 months each on Tuesday in Oklahoma City after pleading guilty on Aug. 1 to conspiracy to defraud. Mathews falsely posed as pregnant and wanting to place her child up for adoption, after which the two sought to receive “birth mother” payments such as rent, utilities, food and personal items, according to an FBI press release.

The couple used the adoption providers to arrange meetings between Mathews and prospective adoptive couples who hoped to adopt a baby.

The two were indicted on June 22, 2010, after an investigation conducted by the FBI. Assistant US Attorneys Susan Dickerson Cox and Kerry Kelly prosecuted the case.

FBI Lends Hand to the Balkans

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

One lucky FBI agent has won a round trip visit to the Balkan nation of Bulgaria.

Announced on Tuesday during Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov’s U.S. visit, an FBI special agent will be sent to Bulgaria to assist the nation’s cyber crime fighting, reports the Sofia News Agency.

The agent will help with such cases involving child pornography, identity theft and financial crimes.

FBI Director Robert Mueller also made clear that in December he will visit Bulgaria, a nation he said the bureau’s relationship with is “better than ever.”

Tsventanov also met with US Attorney General Eric Holder and plans to meet with many others in the intelligence and federal law enforcement community.

To read more click here.

Relations Warm, But Bolivia’s President Still Says No to DEA

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Three years after expelling US Ambassador Phillip Goldberg and the DEA, Bolivia’s populist president Evo Morales has made moves to warm ties with the US.

But not so fast for the DEA, says a report from the Associated Press.

Morales kicked US diplomats and law enforcement officias out of the country in 2008, but a new pact calls for “the restoration of ambassadors as soon as possible and close cooperation in counter narcotics, trade and development” the Associated Press reported, citing an anonymous US source.

But US drug agents are not welcome back, as a matter of “dignity and sovereignty,” according to the AP.

Before his election in 2005, Morales led a union of coca growers, farmers of the plant that cocaine is derived from, but of which the leaves are traditionally chewed as a coffee-like stimulant in Bolivian culture. He says he was “personally a victim” of US agents controlled by Bolivian military and police.

“For the first time since Bolivia was founded, the United States will now respect Bolivia’s rules” and laws, Morales said.

Bolivia is the No. 3 producer of cocaine, and drug officials say the narcotic’s production has increased since the DEA was expelled.

To read more click here.

FBI’s Hoover Building “Bursting at Seams”

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has swelled so much in size since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that the D.C. headquarters is bursting at the seams.

The Government Accountability Office has determined that FBI headquarters at the J. Edgar Hoover Building is deteriorating and in need of repair, much of attributable to staff growth since Sept. 11, says a blog post from the Washington Post. The Announcement on Tuesday said the FBI is in need of a new headquarters.

Before Sept. 11, 9,700 headquarters staffers worked at seven locations; now there are about 17,300 employees and contractors at 40 sites across the nation, 22 in the Washington area, according to the Post.

“A new consolidated FBI headquarters facility is urgently needed and we view this as one of our highest priorities for the foreseeable future,” FBI Assistant Deputy Director T.J. Harrington wrote in the report.

The report also noted long standing concerns about the Hoover building’s security. While vehicle barriers and a dry mote protect the building, the building is bounded closely on all sides by busy DC streets–9th, 10th and E Streets and Pennsylvania Ave.

Four potential responses were given: remain in the Hoover building and take no action; renovate the Hoover building and consolidate leases on other FBI buildings; demolish and rebuild the Hoover building at the same site; or build a new headquarters at a completely new location.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTERESTED

 

It’s Almost Blago Time Again; Sentencing Set for Dec. 6

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s almost Blago time again.

The Chicago Tribune reports that U.S. District Judge James Zagel of Chicago set sentencing for the ever-chatty, ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Dec. 6.

Blago almost skated in his first public corruption trial when the jury convicted on only 1 of 24 counts. It deadlocked on the remainder.

But the second time around, in a retrial, the prosecution tightened up and simplified its case. The jury convicted Blago on 17 or 20 public corruption counts.

The Tribune reported that Blago’s attorney said his client intends to speak at the sentencing hearing.

co-defendant, William Cellini, a Springfield power broker who was convicted last wee

No Fireworks but Some Contentiousness as Atty. Gen. Holder Defends Himself in Senate Hearing

Holder on Tuesday before the Judiciary/ttw

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

There were some moments of contentiousness,  but it was still far short of the big fireworks that were expected when Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. appeared before the Senate Judiciary at the Dirksen Office Building on the Hill to talk about ATF’s controversial Operation Fast and Furious — a program that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchaser, with hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

In other words, Holder took a few jab here and there, but didn’t walk away bloodied.

Republicans — particularly Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) were expected to grill Holder. Grassley did somewhat, and Cronyn did far more, pressing Holder on when he knew about the operation. But fireworks? Not really.

Democrats, seemed more sympathetic to Holder, and those like Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) appeared to give Holder a little cover, raising the point that the gun-walking had occurred under the Bush administration as well under “Operation Wide Receiver”,  and they needed to look into that as well.  Schumer suggested the probe lead by Republicans had been a little one sided.

Holder made statements insisting that he never mislead Congress as to what and when he knew about Fast and Furious. And he went on to remark:

“I want to be very clear: any instance of so-called “gun walking” is simply unacceptable,” Holder said in a statement. “Regrettably, this tactic was used as part of Fast and Furious, which was launched to combat gun trafficking and violence on our Southwest Border. This operation was flawed in its concept, and flawed in its execution. And, unfortunately, we will feel the effects for years to come as guns that were lost during this operation continue to show up at crimes scenes both here and in Mexico.

“This should never have happened. And it must never happen again.”

Sen. Cornyn came armed with graphics/ttw

Cornyn, aided by big bold graphics, pressed Holder, pointing out that internal Justice Department memos about gun walking were addressed to Holder. But Holder insisted, as he has before, that he didn’t see those memos and that staff read them and made a determination whether to brief him.

Cornyn also asked if Holder had ever apologozied to the family of Border Agent Brian Terry, who was killed last year near the Arizona border. Two guns from Operation Fast and Furious were found at the scene, but it was never determined whether the weapons were used in the murder.

“I have not apologized to them,” said Holder.  “I certainly regret what happened to Agent Terry. I can only imagine the pain that his family has had to deal with….We are not programmed to bury our kids. It pains me whenever there is the death of a law enforcement official, especially under the circumstances. It is not fair, however, to assume that the mistakes that happened in Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.”

Cornyn also pressed Holder, asking him to name one person who  has paid for the mistakes of Operation Fast and Furious. Holder said that the head of ATF had been replaced and the U.S. Attorney in Arizona had stepped down and others would pay if a pending Inspector General investigation shows they should.

In his opening statement Tuesday, Sen. Grassley took aim at Holder, saying: “Just over nine months ago Attorney General Holder sat in my office. After discussing a number of items with him, I handed him two letters I had written to the Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Kenneth Melson.[1] A member of my staff briefly outlined the allegations contained therein that had come to us from an ATF whistleblower.”

“My letters mentioned: (1) the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, (2) the allegation that ATF had sanctioned the sale of hundreds of assault weapons to straw buyers, (3) the allegation that two of those weapons had been found at the scene of Agent Terry’s death, and (4) the allegation that the whistleblowers who provided this information were already facing retaliation.”

“Just four days later, I received a response back from the Justice Department.[3] That response explicitly stated that the whistleblower allegations were “false” and that “ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.”

In response, Holder apologized for the letter, saying at the time,  the  people who wrote it believed those were the facts. He acknowledged it was wrong and there was an effort to find out where along the chain someone provided erroneous information.

Holder later went on to say that the finger pointing and probing  ” in some ways is a bit of a distraction that does nothing to what concerns us most and that is the flow of weapons from the United States across the southwest border.”

He also said of Fast and Furious: “I think I acted in a responsible way.”