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Despite Recent Mishaps, Secret Service Teaches Obama Daughter to Drive

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Secret Service had a recent mishap behind the wheel at the White House, but that hasn’t stopped the agency from teaching President Obama’s oldest daughter how to drive, The New York Daily News reports. 

“The Secret Service (taught her) actually, because they wouldn’t let me in the car with her,” the First Lady told television host Rachel Ray in an interview airing Thursday.

To get a true sense of the road, 16-year-old Malia has driven outside White House grounds, but never without security.

The president said the driving lessons give Malia “a sense of normalcy.”

“My kids have got to learn how to live in the world like normal kids,” Obama said.

Buffalo News: FBI, Congress Must Improve Anti-Terrorism Performance

The Buffalo News
Editorial Board

The good news – and it is good news – is that the FBI has made great strides in transforming itself since the 2001 terror attacks. In a new report by the FBI 9/11 Review Commission, the agency is credited with significantly improving the number of analysts qualified for their jobs and better foreign language ability.

Yet some of the finding are also puzzling, so many years after the attacks. While the bureau was credited with having improved its foreign language ability, it also notes the continuing need for more linguists.

That imperative was made public within weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks. How hard can it be, especially when the need is so obviously critical? Schools have churned out 14 years of graduates over that time; surely enough to have produced sufficient numbers of trained linguists – assuming the pay is commensurate with demand. Specifically, the report notes that while the bureau has enough linguists in its large offices, they are in “short supply” in other parts of the country.

And therein lies a problem. Congress has also played a destructive role in – bluntly – keeping the country less safe than it should be. Budget cuts, such as those included in the mindless sequestration policy that took hold two years ago, have “severely hindered the FBI’s intelligence and national security programs,” the report concluded. Among the report’s three principal authors is Edwin Meese III, who was attorney general in the Reagan administration and can hardly be dismissed as a reckless government spender.

The report also notes that the FBI needs to improve its abilities at analysis and to develop a deep roster of informants.

These are areas where the FBI needs to improve, and Congress must play a role, along with the bureau’s leaders. Still, on balance, the report was positive and as one observer noted, periodic evaluations such as this will help keep it on track.

To read more click here. 

DEA, Justice Department Secretly Tracked Phone Calls of Americans

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA and Justice Department have been secretly amassing logs of nearly all international phone calls that originated from the U.S., the USA Today reports.

The collection of billions of calls came nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The government has tracked calls to as many as 116 countries, including Canada, Mexico and most of South America.

The records helped investigators track the distribution networks of drug cartels.

According to the USA Today,

The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA’s intelligence arm, was the government’s first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. It was a model for the massive phone surveillance system the NSA launched to identify terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks.

That dragnet drew sharp criticism that the government had intruded too deeply into Americans’ privacy after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked it to the news media two years ago.

Other Stories of Interest

 

 

FBI to Offer $300K Reward for Information on 1995 Train Derailment

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI plans to offer a $300,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect who caused the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in 1995, The Arizona Republic reports.

The derailment about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix caused the death of one Amtrak employee and the injury of more than 100 others on Oct. 9, 1995.

The tracks were ripped out and sabotaged.

Authorities believe the suspect may be familiar with the track because of the ability to know how to avoid signaling a break in the lines.

The train came off the tracks and plunged off a railroad bridge.

The FBI plans to announce the reward at 9 a.m. Friday at the bureau’s Phoenix field office.

Former Head of FBI’s Knoxville Office Sues Bureau, Justice Department

Richard Lambert

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The former chief of the Knoxville FBI office is suing the bureau and the Justice Department for $2.5 million, saying he was falsely accused of violating the law for accepting a position as the senior counterintelligence officer for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence Oak Ridge field office, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. 

Richard Lambert, a 24-year veteran of the FBI and former special agent in charge of the Knoxville office, claims that his office was raided and false rumors were spread about him.

“Due to the notoriety and stigma surrounding defendants’ erroneous legal opinion and its plain implication that he is a federal felon, Mr. Lambert is currently unemployed and unemployable,” Lambert wrote in the lawsuit.

ORNL spokesman David Keim declined to comment Monday.

At issue is whether Lambert violated a law that “makes it a crime for a former government worker to ‘communicate’ with his or her former co-workers for one year after leaving his or her post ‘with the intent to influence official action,'” the Sentinel wrote.

Lambert was also a key FBI  investigator for a while in the anthrax mailings after 9/11.  He was one of the investigators who strongly believed that scientist Steven Hatfill was behind the mailings. Hatfill successfully sued the government for trying to pin the mailings on him, and leaking information about the case to the press.

Eventually, the FBI decided Hatfill was not the guy, and investigators turned their attention on scientist Bruce Edwards Ivins, who committed suicide before he could be charged.

 

Former Top-Ranking Federal Prosecutor Leaves Job for Private Law Firm

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A federal prosecutor who once was the third highest-ranking official in the Justice Department’s fraud section is headed to the private sector.

The New York Times reports that James Koukios is joining private law firm, Morrison & Forester.

He was named a partner in the firm’s security litigation and white-collar criminal defense group, The Times wrote.

In other words, Koukois will help defend the people he once tried to prosecute.

Koukois’ last day is Friday.

Other Stories of Interest


Al Jazeera: Border Patrol Agents Are Out of Control

istock photo

By Mary Turck 
Al Jazeera

On March 20, the Michigan Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit charged two U.S. Border Patrol agents with theft and misconduct while on duty. The two agents allegedly stole from a home while executing an agency-authorized search warrant. The case exemplifies the type of unchecked abuse and corruption that has become so rampant within the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

From 2010 to 2014 CBP agents  shot and killed 28 people. Other charges against CBP agents included drug trafficking, theft, assaults, kidnapping and rape. Investigative reports from multiple sources paint a picture of a law enforcement agency that is out of control. Even worse, most of its victims are people who cannot fight back — undocumented immigrants and refugees with limited or no access to U.S. courts.

Report after report recounts tales of unchecked abuse of power. Agents frequently respond to cross-border rock throwing with deadly force. Sometimes CBP officers step into the path of moving cars to justify shooting the drivers as a “response to deadly force.” The agency has refused to ban either practice, disregarding recommendations from a report that it commissioned. Other kinds of corruption also plague the agency. A 2011 internal study by the CBP found that the agency’s disciplinary system “does not foster timely discipline or exoneration.”

The story of failure traces back to 2001. After 9/11, any legislation to protect U.S. borders sailed through Congress. Need more agents? Done. More money? Done. Lawmakers were eager to support border enforcement. In 2003, they merged the previously understaffed Border Patrol with Customs enforcement and Department of Agriculture inspectors to create the CBP. The new agency now has more than 60,000 employees, a $12.4 billion annual budget and a reputation for corruption and abuse. On average, at least one agent is arrested daily for misconduct, according to Politico Magazine’s Garrett M. Graff.

What happened was predictable. But no one bothered to consult law enforcement experts. Effective law enforcement requires high standards, careful screening of candidates for criminal backgrounds and for psychological fitness, and intensive training by experienced officers. The rush to fill a lot of vacant positions meant inadequate screening and skimping on training.

To read more click here. 

House Committee Calls for Investigation of Secret Service Leak

secret service photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A House committee wants the Obama administration to investigate Secret Service employees who circulated personnel information that showed the panel’s chairman was denied a job as an agent, The Washington Post reports. 

The committee that oversees the Secret Service discovered last week that unflattering information about Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, was circulated at the agency’s headquarters.

Chaffetz told the Post in an interview that he was denied a job for the Secret Service in a Wester field office around 2003.

Chaffetz said it was “disconcerting to say the least” that he was the butt of a joke.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson agreed an investigation is warranted.

“If and to the extent the matters reflected in this report are accurate, then the United States Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security owe the member of Congress an apology,” Johnson said. He added: “If true, those responsible should be held accountable.”