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Head of New Orleans FBI Dave Welker is Retiring

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Dave Welker knew there was plenty cajun food and beer in New Orleans and plenty corruption.

Now after dealing with that corruption the pastfour years as head of the FBI in New Orleans, he’s retiring.

“I found (New Orleans) by far has been my best assignment, by far,” said Welker, according to WWLTV. “Part of it is by virtue of my position. A great deal of it is the work that we’ve done. I think the impact we’ve had on the community.”

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

FBI and NYPD May Soon Finally Close 33 Year Old Case of Missing Child Etan Patz

nypd poster

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

One of the first missing kids featured on a milk carton may see justice after all, though 33 years after his disappearance and long after he was assumed dead, it may be small comfort to his family.

Pedro Hernandez was picked up by local cops in Camden, N.J., yesterday, and “made statements to NYPD detectives implicating himself in the disappearance and death of Etan Patz,” reports the NY Daily News.

It seemed the long forgotten case of Etan Patz, the Brooklyn 6 year old who went missing in 1979, was suddenly reopened then shut again in April, when the NYPD and FBI gutted a SoHo basement looking for remains, but found nothing.

Othniel Miller, who worked in that basement and knew Patz from the neighborhood, said he was “deeply saddened” by the boy’s disappearance. His lawyer protested that Miller’s reputation had been “dragged through the mud” by the reopened case.

A 2004 New York civil case declared prime-suspect and pedophile Jose Ramos responsible for Etan’s death, though he is not serving time for this case. Ramos, now 68, is due to be released in November from a Pennsylvania prison where he is doing time for molesting two boys. He previously admitted to raping a young boy who looked like Etan on the day he disappeared, but insisted he let the boy go.

To read more click here.

Head of Secret Service Denies Culture of Misconduct

Republican Congressmen Demand Whitehouse be Included in Leak Investigation

Rep. Peter King/gov photo

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

Could White House officials have accidentally leaked news that tripped up a Western intelligence operation targeting Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen?

Two Republican congressional leaders want the formal FBI inquiry to answer that question, reports Reuters.

Monday, Rep Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to FBI Director Mueller requesting that the FBI investigation of alleged leaks cover the White House, including the National Security staff. Later, Reuters says Sen. Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent Mueller a fax seconding that request.

These questions were triggered by last week’s Reuters story which brought a potential White House slip-up to light. In response, the White House has strongly denied that sensitive information was leaked stating, “No one is more upset than us about this disclosure, and we support efforts to prevent leaks like this which harm our national security.”

To read more click here.

Column: Time to Set Teen Drug Dealer Free After 25 Years; Retired FBI Agent Pushes for Release

Richard "White Boy Rick" Wershe/photo by Michelle Andonian

By Allan Lengel
For Deadline Detroit
DETROIT — On any ordinary day, Richard Wershe Jr. sleeps in and skips breakfast in his prison in northern Michigan. But on Tuesday — the 25th anniversary of his arrest in Detroit – he couldn’t sleep, so he grabbed some oatmeal with skim milk.

“I probably slept two hours,” Wershe told me. “I’ll never forget May 22. It still will always be the worst day of my life.”

Wershe is better known as White Boy Rick, one of the most famous drug dealers in Detroit history, a baby-faced, blond-haired, magazine cover boy who was only 17 when police arrested him in 1987 with $25,000 in cash while driving a new Thunderbird that had been rented by his girlfriend, Cathy Volsan. She was the niece of Mayor Coleman Young. Authorities later found eight kilos of cocaine, and they linked the dope to Wershe. He was convicted of drug trafficking Jan. 15, 1988 and sentenced to life in prison.

Wershe is in the news these days because he can’t get paroled — not even after 25 years in prison — not even after FBI agents and a federal prosecutor have vouched for him. Not even after he cooperated over many years and helped put away a bunch of dirty cops along with violent drug dealers.

While Wershe received a life sentence without parole, the state law was later changed, and he became eligible for parole, but in 2003 and 2008 he was rejected by a parole board. He’s up again in December for consideration.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Sentencing for 2nd Half of Ohio Couple Guilty of Funding Hizbollah

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

The upside is both the husband and wife will know where one another is at all times. The Ohio couple is serving time for trying to fund Hizbollah’s terrorist efforts against Israel.

Hor I. Akl was sentenced yesterday to 75 months in prison for scheming with wife Amera to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to the designated foreign terrorist organization Hizballah, announced Ohio U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Division Stephen Anthony.

The two plotted with a confidential source working for the FBI in 2009-10 to hide bundles of money in a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer, then send the car on a container ship to Lebanese Hizbollah leaders.

Amera Akl, who told the FBI source she dreamed of martyring herself, is currently serving a 40 month sentence for conspiracy.

“Money is the lifeblood of terrorist organizations, and stopping the flow is a key component to choking off these organizations,” said U.S. Attorney Dettelbach.

OBIT: Former Tampa FBI Agent Michael Barry Carmody Dies at 73; One of his Cases Inspired Film “Donnie Brasco”

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

Barry Carmody served as an FBI agent for 33 years, retiring in 1998 having participated in some of Tampa’s most historic cases. Carmody died Wednesday of brain cancer at age 73. He is survived by his wife, two children, six grandchildren and, according to friends and family, some whopping stories.

Among his most famous cases was an FBI sting called Operation Coldwater in the late 70’s, early 80’s, reports the Tampa Bay Times, later chronicled in the film “Donnie Brasco.” Operation Coldwater resulted in the arrests of mob higher-ups including Santo Trafficante Jr. who was later acquitted.

True to the reports of Carmody being a man-of-the-people who used his humor and storytelling to get along with anybody, Carmody later visited the ailing Trafficante in his sick bed. “Dad would go check on him, stop in, probably bring him a beer, smoke a cigar and that would be it,” remembered son Roderick Carmody.

“Barry had that Irish wit, he was a good storyteller,” said retired agent Al Scudieri who worked with Carmody for more than 20 years. “We could all be in the same incident, and he would come out and tell the best story about it.”

The Tampa Bay Times quotes Robert O’Neill, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, saying Mr. Carmody was “born to be an FBI agent.”

“He loved working with law enforcement and he loved his family,” O’Neill said. “But his second family was the FBI.”

To read more click here.

Questions Remain in Oklahoma Bombing: Book Excerpts

Perhaps no lead in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation was left hanging more glaringly than the radical community in eastern Oklahoma known as Elohim City.

It played host to some of dangerous radical criminals of the time, and there are multiple indications from law enforcement sources McVeigh himself either spent time there or met its residents nearby.

The ATF, through its undercover informant Carol Howe, knew that people at Elohim City were talking about waging war against the government and had made specific reference to blowing up federal buildings.

The failure to follow up on this intelligence speaks to a lot of the systemic problems that beset federal law enforcement not only in the lead-up to the bombing, but also in the lead-up to 9/11 — warnings signs that were missed, individual agents whose investigative instincts were ignored, and agencies more interested in protecting their own turf than in talking to one another.

Andrew Gumbel, co-author of Oklahoma City: What The Investigation Missed — And Why It Still Matters, talked to almost all the major players involved in the Elohim City fiasco, and he and his co-author, Roger G. Charles, gained access to all the government files that have been made available to date.

The characters in this extract include Dennis Mahon, a Ku Klu Klan leader from Tulsa, Oklahoma who first took Carol Howe into Elohim City; Bob Ricks, the FBI special agent in charge in Oklahoma at the time; Robert Millar, Elohim City’s spiritual leader; and Lester Martz, the head of the ATF’s Dallas field division, with responsibility for Oklahoma.

Excerpted from OKLAHOMA CITY, reprinted with permission from William Morrow

Copyright © 2012 by Andrew Gumbel & Roger C. Charles

The ATF made many excuses for failing to follow up on the leads Carol Howe had established at Elohim City. One was that Howe had been a nightmare from start to finish and her information unusable—an argument undermined by the reliability of much of what she reported back. Another was that they were ordered by Bob Ricks to back off.

That, too, appears to be untrue. John Magaw, the ATF director at the time, said the decision to stop almost certainly came from within his agency, before Ricks had a chance to express an opinion.

“I wanted to make sure that before we conducted any more raids of those kinds of places, we were properly retrained, had the right equipment, did really good intelligence, and had done very good practicing and planning,” Magaw explained in a 2010 interview. “We weren’t ready at that time.”

Magaw could not remember exactly how the decision was made, but Lester Martz most likely brought the problem to him, and he and his assistant director for operations supported Martz’s inclination to close Howe down. Remarkably, Magaw also acknowledged that the decision might have cost the federal government an opportunity to prevent the bombing.

When reminded of the human toll at the Murrah Building, Magaw blanched visibly, and did not deny that it might have had something to do with the decisions he made about Elohim City. He said his room for maneuver was constrained by the culture of the time: the aversion to domestic intelligence work (even though the ATF did not operate under the same restraints as the FBI), the frustrating reality that the ATF did not know how to handle volatile standoffs with extremists, and a generalized inability to assess threats from the radical right.

“It was a situation where everyone was hands-off,” he said. “Would Waco happen now? Absolutely not. Would the Oklahoma City bombing have occurred? Probably not. We would have moved in on that group [at Elohim City]. But at the time I wasn’t about to take chances I didn’t need to take.”

A case has been made over the years that Howe gave the government enough material to see the Oklahoma City bombing coming. But that is not corroborated by the available documentary evidence of her informant work. Howe certainly reported on Strassmeir, Mahon, and Millar expressing a desire to set off bombs and attack government buildings, but she offered nothing more specific than that before April 19, 1995. (Afterward was a different story.)

Were there grounds to follow up on these threats anyway? Bob Sanders, the former deputy director of the ATF, certainly thought so, and so did Tristan Moreland, the agent who pursued and ultimately arrested Dennis Mahon. “If they had looked into the files, they would have seen Mahon had a predisposition to blowing up buildings,” Moreland said. If Howe’s information was deemed to be solid and the concern was about her stability, Moreland argued, the logical thing to do would have been to replace her, not shut down the entire operation.

In the heat of the bombing investigation, the government took the line that the threats were not a big deal because such talk was part of the rhetoric of the radical right and did not, on its own, imply anything. That was Finley’s line of defense when she was questioned in court in 1997. She confirmed she had heard threats to blow up government buildings, but only “in general.”

It was also the official position of the Justice Department once news of Howe’s existence became public in early 1997. Don Thrasher, a producer with ABC News who was working on pieces about Howe and Elohim City, remembered being warned by Leesa Brown, the department spokeswoman, about the danger of jumping to conclusions based on threats alone.

“If you go beyond the story of an informant in a white supremacist compound hearing all of these stories,” he quoted Brown saying, “what have you got? This happens all the time.”

“Yeah, but there’s one difference here, Leesa,” Thrasher responded.

“What?”

“The goddamn building blew up, that’s what.”

The government, of course, had every reason to be defensive. The ATF had had a pair of eyes and ears in Elohim City and pulled her out, not because she was failing to pick up indications of serious criminality—she was—but because the agency was too afraid to act on them. It adopted a posture of studied ignorance and hoped for the best.

After the bombing, the ATF wanted desperately to avoid talking about Elohim City. Even after the FBI was given the Carol Howe file, Bob Ricks and Danny Defenbaugh never quite believed they had the full story. “Shame on them,” Defenbaugh said. “In upper case—SHAME ON THEM. Sometimes dealing with other players in this is like pulling teeth from a toothless tiger. Ask them why [they didn’t tell everything they knew]. They didn’t ever give me a good reason.” A contrite Magaw did not say a lot in the ATF’s defense. “He’s right,” he responded when Defenbaugh’s words were read back to him. “If we did know something and didn’t bring it forward, then shame on us.”

The FBI was far from blameless itself, having avoided looking into Elohim City for years. The decision to expend only token energy on the community after the bombing was the bureau’s alone. That mystified some of the FBI’s old pros, none more than Danny Coulson, who had spent his career chasing right-wing radicals and found the idea of shying away from Elohim City offensive and ridiculous.

“You still do your job, I’m sorry,” Coulson said. “You’ve taken an oath. You’re a professional, you figure out a way to do it. They’re afraid of another Waco. . . . If that’s your attitude, get out of the business. Go into the shoe business. Be a chef. By its nature it’s risky. You’ve got to be smarter than that.”