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Rep. Issa Presses Atty. Gen. Holder for Answers in Controversial ATF Gun Program

Atty. Gen. Holder before House Judiciary/ticklethewire.com

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In an exchange that was intense and sometimes contentious, Rep. Darrell Issa  (R-Calif.) on Tuesday pressed Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. on who gave the OK for a controversial ATF gun-walking program known as Operation Fast and Furious.

Issa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee,  pointedly asked Holder at a Congressional hearing whether deputy Attorney General James Cole or Lanny Breuer, head of the criminal division,  authorized the Fast and Furious program, which encouraged straw purchasers to buy guns in Arizona — all with the hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels.  ATF lost track of some guns, and at least one federal agent Brian Terry may have been killed by one of the guns.

Holder said he didn’t think Cole was  in the department at the time it was authorized, and “I’m not sure whether Mr. Breuer authorized it.”

“You have to understand the way in which the department operates…,” Holder said. “This has gotten a great deal of publicity..”

“There are dead Americans as a result of this of this failed and reckless program,” Issa shot back. “So I would say it hasn’t gotten enough attention, has it Mr. Attorney General?”

Holder responded: “We’ll have to  look at that and see exactly what happened….I take very seriously the allegations.”

Issa later said to Holder: “We’re not looking at straw purchasers. We’re looking at you. We’re looking at your key people, who knew, who should have known about this and whether or not your judgment was consistent with good practices…”

Issa, who chairs another committee that has been aggressively investigating the ATF program, also asked about a subpoena he issued to ATF to get documents.

“After 14 days of waiting for a letter to be signed or acknowledged or responded to, we sent a subpoena signed by the clerk of the House. Thirty two days later, last night your people responded by giving us 92 pages representing three documents that were public records already,” Issa said. “And saying that the 400 or so responsive pages were not going to be produced. Do you stand by that and were you aware of that?

Holder: “I think we indicated that the other 400 pages be made available for review,  to be accurate.”

Issa also suggested the Justice Department and ATF were to blame for the deaths of Mexicans and Americans including  Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry as a result of the Operation Fast and Furious.

“I take great exception to what you just said,” Holder said. “The notion that the Justice Department is responsible for those deaths that you mention, that assertion is offensive.

Fed Prosecutors in Blago Trial Go For More Focused Case 2nd Time Around

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Federal prosecutors, after stumbling the first time around, unveiled a blueprint Monday for what they hope is a new and and improved case against ex-Ill. Rod Blagojevich.

The Chicago Tribune reports that in opening statements the prosecution presented a “much slimmer, more focused version of the government’s corruption case.” The first jury complained the case was too confusing and ended up convicting Blago on only 1 or 24 counts.

This time around, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner honed in on the headline grabber in the case: accusations that Blago tried to shake down Barack Obama by getting him to give him a cabinet position. In exchange, Blago would appoint an Obama friend to the vacant Senate seat.

“He was going to shake down the man who was going to become president of the United States,” Niewoehner said in opening statements, according to the Tribune.

“And right there, the crime is complete,” said Niewoehner.

The Tribune reported that “Niewoehner presented a concise view of the case that boiled down to essentially five criminal episodes: the alleged Senate seat sale as well as alleged shakedowns of a road-building executive, a racetrack owner, a hospital official and Rahm Emanuel when he was a former U.S. representative and close political ally of Blagojevich’s.”

But the prosecution left out of the opening a part that confused jurors in the first trial: a complicated scheme in which Blagojevich plotted with convicted fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko to siphon cash from state deals.

Blagojevich’s lawyer Aaron Goldstein in opening statements said the case amounts to no harm, no foul, the Trib reported. He said. Blagojevich talked a lot on the wiretaps, but “what ended up happening?”

“Do you think they found a big bag of cash hidden somewhere?” he said. “No, they found nothing because, in fact, there is nothing.”

To read more click here.

Brink’s Truck Driver Sentenced for Role in Inside Job that Netted $721,309


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — As get rich-quick schemes goes, this was one of the riskier ones.

Just ask Tyronda Ferrell, 23, a former Brink’s armored truck driver who was sentenced Monday in federal court in Washington to 6 years and 8 months in prison for her inside role in a brazen, mid-afternoon armored car robbery last September that netted $721,309, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Authorities said that Ferrell, of Hyattsville, Md.,  planned the robbery with a friend David Reddix, 23, of Washington, who recruited his friend Richard Lee, 32.

Last Sept. 2, Brink’s dispatched a truck to pick up money from banks and businesses in Northern Virginia, authorities said. Ferrell was one of the two guards, and was the driver.

As part of the plan, after doing the normal pickups, Ferrell drove to a Wendy’s restaurant in Northeast Washington.  At 2:40 p.m., she parked the car and Reddix, who was wearing the mask and carrying a gun,  and Lee,  approached  the other guard and ordered that person to open the truck door, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The two robbers entered the truck and ordered the guard to fill the bag with money while they told Ferrell to start driving. The second guard was forced into the rear of the truck and Lee took his gun. Ferrell drove to an alley in Northeast Washington and the two men took off.

That night, the men planned to meet Ferrell to split up the money. But Ferrell was arrested that night and Reddix and Lee were arrested within days.  Reddix and Lee are awaiting sentencing.

Ex-FBI Official Greg Jones Recalls the Hunt for bin Laden

Fed Grand Jury Should Investigate Pakistan’s Protection of bin Laden, Author Says

By Jeff Stein
Spy Talk

WASHINGTON — Steve Coll, author of two books on the CIA’s pursuit of Osama Bin Laden, said out loud Monday what U.S. officials are loathe to admit publicly: Pakistan had to be protecting the late al Qaeda founder.

And he called on the Justice Department to get to the bottom of Pakistan’s complicity in hiding Bin Laden in Abbottabad, a military cantonment crawling with retired officers about 75 miles north of the capital.

“It stretches credulity to think that a mansion of that scale could have been built and occupied by bin Laden for six years without its coming to the attention of anyone in the Pakistani Army,” Coll wrote on the Web site of The New Yorker magazine, where he is a contributor.

“The initial circumstantial evidence suggests that the opposite is more likely—that bin Laden was effectively being housed under Pakistani state control,” Coll continued. Pakistan will deny this, it seems safe to predict, and perhaps no convincing evidence will ever surface to prove the case.”

No matter:

“If I were a prosecutor at the United States Department of Justice, however, I would be tempted to call a grand jury. Who owned the land on which the house was constructed? How was the land acquired, and from whom? Who designed the house, which seems to have been purpose-built to secure bin Laden? Who was the general contractor? Who installed the security systems? Who worked there? Are there witnesses who will now testify as to who visited the house, how often, and for what purpose?”

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Atty. Gen. Holder Likely to Get Grilling on ATF Program at Congressional Hearing

Atty. Gen. Holder/doj file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. might have to bring his extra-thick skin when he appears Tuesday before a House Judiciary Committee hearing where he’s expected to get a grilling about the ATF gun-walking program called Operation Fast and Furious.

The program has stirred a mountain of controversy, and one of those folks leading the charge has been Rep. Darrell Issa, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

Becca Watkins, a spokeswoman for the the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which Issa chairs, told ticklethewire.com ,that she expects Issa to press Holder for answers during Tuesday’s hearing.

Issa has been pushing hard for answers about Operation Fast Furious, a program in which the ATF Phoenix office encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers — all in the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels. The problem was ATF lost track of some guns that were used in crimes, and may have been used in the shooting death of at least one federal agent.

Holder and President Obama have both said they did not give the go ahead for such a program.

Issa has threatened ATF with contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena to turn over materials on the program.

Watkins said ATF has still not complied, but to date, no further action has been taken on the contempt threat.  She added that Congressional investigators went to Arizona last week to gather more information on the ATF program.

The Justice Department has indicated that it is preparing to turn over some documents.

Donald Oswald to Head Minneapolis FBI

Donald Oswald/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — FBI agent Donald E. Oswald, the chief inspector in the office of Inspections, is heading to Minneapolis to head up the bureau’s office.

Oswald, 52, who has a law degree, joined the FBI in 1992 and first served in the Los Angeles Division where he investigated bank robberies and street gang activities and also served as a division legal adviser, the FBI said.

Two years later, he was off to new York, where he investigated complex multi-agency public corruption cases. He also served for more than three years as associate division counsel in the New York Division.

In February 2000, he became a supervisory special agent in the Office of the General Counsel at FBI Headquarters. He was assigned to the Investigative Law Unit.

Read more »

Column: Ex-FBI Official Says New FBI Director Should Be “Someone Who Has Lived the Life of a Law Enforcement and Intelligence Officer”

Anthony Riggio is a former lawyer who went on to work for the FBI for 24 years. He held a number of posts during that time including assistant special agent in charge of the Detroit office. He retired in 1995 as a senior executive at FBI headquarters.

Tony Riggio

By Anthony Riggio
For ticklethewire.com

There is no more important a job in Law Enforcement anywhere on the planet than the Director of the FBI. He is the person whose views, counsel and influence are sought anytime major criminal or terrorist actions occur.

As a retired FBI Agent who has worked for three Directors — having applied during J. Edgar Hoover’s long reign but coming on board just after he died — I have watched the FBI evolve into a worldwide force in both the area of intelligence and criminal investigations.

Each successive Director has built upon the Hoover’s legacy and have brought the FBI to this point in its recognition and reputation.

Each Director has done his absolute best to keep the FBI apolitical in an ever increasing and demanding political environment.

The FBI, must remain free of the influences of politicians who have a tendency to point the finger of blame every time something goes wrong.

The media pundits, who often represent destructive cynicism and reporting, often times, from a wide base of poor information, speculation and hidden agendas, cause the elected officials to get nervous.

The result: the event reported becomes an avalanche heaped upon the dedicated institutions, who are neither Gods nor Prophets, but are human beings with all the frailties of the fallible called upon to deal with super heroic dramas.

Read more »