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FBI

A Bizarre Watergate-Like Caper: 4 People Including Son of Acting U.S. Attorney Busted for Tampering with La. Sen. Landrieu’s Office Phones

Sen. Landrieu/gov photo

Sen. Landrieu/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In a bizarre incident that had a vintage Watergate feel about it, the FBI on Monday busted the son of the acting U.S. Attorney in Shreveport, La. and three other people for tampering with the phones of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in her downtown New Orleans office, federal authorities announced on Tuesday.

An FBI affidavit did not specifically say the men were trying to tap the phones, but some media reports did. But there’s no indication that bugging was involved and it’s unclear what their mission was.

The Associated Press reported that conservative activist James O’Keefe, 25, who once posed as a pimp to target the community group ACORN, was in Landrieu’s New Orleans office Monday when Robert Flanagan and Joseph Basel, both 24, showed up dressed like phone repairmen claiming they were there to work on the phones . Flanagan is the son of acting U.S. Attorney Bill Flanagan.

Flanagan and Basel then asked for access to a reception desk phone and the phone closet, according to the news service  and an FBI affidavit. And O”Keefe videotaped the two men on his cellphone, authorities said.

U.S. Marshals arrested the men. A fourth man, Stan Dai, 24, was also arrested, the AP reported, saying he was allegedly involved in the planning of the scheme.

Authorities did not say why the men were tampering with the phones.

Read New Orleans Times-Picayune Story

Acting DEA Head Michele Leonhart Nominated to Take Post Permanently

DEA's Michele Leonhart/dea photo

DEA's Michele Leonhart/dea photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — As expected, President Obama has nominated acting head of the DEA Michele Leonhart to take on the post on a permanent basis.

The announcement came in a White House press release issued on Monday. She had been one of four candidates being considered for the job. Ticklethewire.com  first reported last year that she was expected to get the nod from Pres. Obama.

One of the other candidates, John Pistole, deputy director of the FBI, had been considered the lead candidate for a while, but that changed.

Leonhart, a former Baltimore cop, joined the DEA in 1980 and rose through the ranks to become deputy administrator in 2004. In 2007, she became acting administrator, the top post in DEA, after Karen Tandy resigned.

Blago’s Name-Dropping Attorney Invokes the Names of Tony Soprano, Pres. Obama and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

tony-sopranoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s not everyday, within the confines of a five-page court filing, that a defense attorney gets to cram in the names Tony Soprano, President Obama and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But Sam Adams, who represents the fiesty ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich,  did just that the other day in a response to a government filing.

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

As part of the pretrial discovery process,  Adams is asking that the government turn over interviews by the FBI  of “White House family and staff, not the least of whom is the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”

“What justification can the government offer for the government’s refusal to provide material?” he asks, and goes on to cite the government’s reluctance to provide a witness list out of concern for the security and possible harassment of witnesses.

“The government’s alleged concern about the harassment and security of witnesses… cannot be taken seriously,” he wrote. “This defendant is Rod Blagojevich, not Tony Soprano. This is the trial of the former governor for alleged non-violent offenses, not a replay of the “FAMILY SECRETS” trial.

Khalid Sheik Mohammad

Khalid Sheik Mohammad

“A government confident enough in its own rectitude to try purported terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed  in a United States District court in New York should likewise be secure enough to provide the accused former Illinois with the requested statements of the President of the United States. What next, a government motion to limit the tapes to only those the government wants played at trial?”

Read Motion

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Detroit Area Man Who is Popular Muslim Singer Charged with Lying About Links to Hamas

detroit1By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A suburban Detroit man charged with lying about his ties to a Hamas-linked charity, the Holly Land Foundation, is a well-known singer in the Muslim world, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The paper reported that Mohamad Mustapha Ali Masfaka, 47, of Farmington Hills, Mich., who is also known as Abu Ratib, sings frequently to Muslim and Arab audiences in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, his attorney Doraid Elder told the Free Press on Monday.

The Syrian born man was arrested last week while trying to enter the U.S. from Canada via the  Ambassador Bridge,  authorities said.

He is charged with attempted naturalization fraud, making false statements to FBI investigators and immigration officials, and perjury, a press release said.

Authorities alleged that he misled them when they were probing the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas-based Muslim charity that was convicted in 2008 of helping to fund Hamas.

The Free press reported that he sang at Holy Land events and was paid by check for his help. Authorities say he ran the group’s Detroit area operation in the late 1990s.

For Full Story

Are We Overreacting to Suspicious White Powder Letters?

powderBy Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — All U.S. mail — about a billion pieces every 36 hours — passes through a sophisticated biohazard detection system at about 270 processing centers around the country. The U.S. Postal Service says no item with anthrax or any other dangerous substance has passed through the screening since it was put in place seven years ago.

Yet suspicious letters and packages continue to prompt panic, evacuations, decontaminations and fear-provoking headlines in post-Sept. 11 America.

Earlier this month, nine threatening letters with white powder were sent to congressional offices in Alabama. One letter to Sen. Richard Shelby’s office in Birmingham ended up temporarily shutting down a federal building.

Last month, about 500 people were evacuated from the Bank of America tower in Tampa, Fla., after the company received threatening letters with white powder. And in November, about 40 people were decontaminated after suspicious white powder letters postmarked from Texas were sent to New York to United Nations missions of France, Germany, Austria and Uzbekistan.

In all these instances, as well as thousands of others investigated each year by U.S. Postal inspectors and the FBI, the material was found to be harmless.

Are we overreacting? The Postal Service won’t flat out say that. But it will say this: “The (biohazard) system has been tested and tested and refined and found to be foolproof,” says Deborah Yackley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service. “The equipment is very highly advanced.”

U.S. Postal Inspector Peter Rendina says protocol for some first responders — often hazmat teams from fire departments — hasn’t changed much since 2001 when deadly anthrax letters killed five people and sickened 17 others.

“Most of the first responders, when they hear about an incident, they go with the worst-case scenario, causing evacuations,” he said.

One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo
One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo

“The odds of anthrax showing up are very slim,” Rendina said. “I really feel the mail is the safest form of communication around. Since 2003, there has not been one positive result or one false positive (at mail facilities) for a dangerous biological substance.”

Alan Etter, who served several years as a spokesman for the District of Columbia Fire Department, said it was heartening for the hazmat teams to know that the suspicious white powder letters had already gone through the postal facility biohazard detectors — essentially vacuum hoods that constantly test the air and sound audio and visual alarms if a suspected biological agent is detected in a letter.

“But just because it’s gone through the mail doesn’t mean we don’t have to do a job,” Etter said. “The first responders have to investigate and determine what the material is. You’re in a situation where you have to react to a worst-case scenario. You have to use whatever resources are available to you to investigate it as the real thing.”

Rendina concurs that authorities need to take the white powder letters seriously. But he said there are steps to be taken before one gets to the decontamination or evacuation stage. He said postal inspectors, if called to a scene, might first see try to see whether they can trace a letter to the sender.

“We don’t jump all the way to the top of the ladder” at the beginning, he said.

If the materials are “field screened” on site, that can take up to a couple of hours. In the meantime, he said, people immediately exposed are isolated.

Since the 2001 anthrax mailing, the only other instance that seemed to raise concerns was the discovery in February 2004 of traces of the biological agent ricin, which was found on a letter-opening machine in the Capitol Hill office of then Sen. Majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. No one was harmed, and federal investigators weren’t able to determine whether the substance came from a letter or something else.

Months earlier, authorities discovered two letters with ricin at mail facilities in South Carolina and Washington, D.C. One letter was addressed to the White House and another to the “U.S. Department of Transportation,” which was marked “caution RICIN POISON.”

The writer claimed to be a “fleet owner of a tanker company” protesting a change in government regulations for drivers. Though ricin can be deadly, authorities found that the ricin in this instance was not considered a dangerous biological agent. The ricin cases remain unsolved.

Despite the Postal Service’s screening system, some government agencies take extra precautions with the mail. For instance, mail addressed to Capitol Hill and the White House goes to a New Jersey postal facility, where it’s irradiated to make sure there are no harmful anthrax or biohazard materials inside.

And in Lansing, Mich., mail gets an extra layer of scrutiny before it’s delivered to state agencies and the governor.

“Without getting into specifics, we do have some additional scrutiny that is applied to the mail that comes through the system, and there’s safeguards if anything is suspicious,” said Jason Nairn, head of security and management for the state government facilities.

He said it’s not that the state of Michigan doesn’t trust the Postal Service system. It’s just good to be careful. Plus, he said, it’s tough to tell a panicky employee in the government mail room who’s exposed to a mysterious white powder, “Yeah, the Postal Service takes care of that, I’m sure it’s fine.”

Rendina recommends the following if you get a suspicious letter:

* If smoke or vapors are coming from the letter, or if you’re feeling ill, call 911.

* If you see a little powder, and nothing is happening, leave it be and warn anyone else to stay away. Try to remember what’s on the front of the envelope in case you’re asked to describe it. Make sure there are no fans blowing in the direction of the envelope. Wash hands with copious amounts of water and call U.S. Postal inspectors at 877-876-2455 and select option 2.

Underwear Bomber Claimed There was a Second Bomb on Plane

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The badly burned underwear bomber told authorities as he was led away on Christmas Day that there was a second bomb aboard the Northwest plane that have arrived from Amsterdam, when in fact there was not, the Associated Press reported.

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marhsals photo

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marhsals photo

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab made incriminating statements to Customs officials on the way to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, and then to the FBI during about 50 minutes of questioning at the hospital, AP reported.  The FBI did not give him his Miranda Rights during that time, the AP reported.

It was during that time he admitted having been trained and instructed by al Qaeda in Yemen, the AP reported. The news agency said law enforcement investigators do not have to read the Miranda Rights to a suspect if they are trying to end a pending public threat to the public.

The FBI interview ended when the suspect was given medication.

“He would not be questioned again for more than five hours,” AP reported. ” By that point, officials said, FBI bosses in Washington had decided a new interrogation team was needed. They made that move in case the lack of a Miranda warning or the suspect’s medical condition at the time of the earlier conversations posed legal problems later on for prosecutors.”

The handling of the suspect has become a flash point of debate. Some Congressional members have argued that he should have been treated as an enemy combatant. They say he stopped talking once he was given a public federal defender.

To read more click here.

Meanwhile, NPR reports that British and U.S. intelligence authorities have linked Abdulmutallab to two men accused of being part of  terrorist plots in the United Kingdom.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI Arrests Suburban Detroit Man Who Posed as Agent Collecting Money for Haiti

fbi logo largeBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

There are those  who are trying to figure out how to help the folks in Haiti. And then there are those who are trying to figure out how scam the charity-minded people.

On Friday, the FBI arrested a suburban Detroit man who impersonated an FBI agent collecting money for Haiti, WDIV news in Detroit reported.

Authorities told WDIV that Kevin Balfour, 34, of Warren, Mi., flashed a gold badge with the letters “FBI” on it and “told people he might be deployed to Haiti and that he was collecting money to help the children.”

The station reported that he also used his FBI credentials to get free food and drinks from a local bar.

OTHER WEEKEND STORIES

Late Radio Personality Paul Harvey Was Pals With J. Edgar Hoover

Paul Harvey/facebook page

Paul Harvey/facebook page

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Paul Harvey, the radio personality with the baritone voice who entertained America for generations, enjoyed a 20 year friendship with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the Washington Post reported.

The paper reported that Harvey, who died last February at 90, often submitted “advance copies of his radio script for comment and approval.”

“Harvey wrote Hoover and his deputies regularly. Hoover, in turn, helped Harvey with research, suggested changes in scripts and showered the broadcaster with effusive praise,” the paper reported.

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

J. Edgar Hoover/fbi photo

The FBI released nearly 1,400 pages of files to the Post as part of a Freedom of Information Act request.

And now for  the rest of the story click here