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Obama Sings James Comey’s Praises During Welcoming Ceremony for New FBI Director

President Barack Obama and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, center, applaud FBI Director James Comey, left, during his installation ceremony at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Obama officially welcomed James Comey to his new post as FBI director during a ceremony Monday at the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

The president applauded what he called Comey’s judgment and commitment, according to a White House blog.

“Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity: That’s your motto,” the President told the men and women of the FBI.  “And today, we’re here to welcome a remarkable new leader for this remarkable institution, one who lives those principles out every single day: Mr. Jim Comey.”

Obama said Comey was the best choice to head the FBI.

“It’s just about impossible to find a matter of justice he has not tackled, and it’s hard to imagine somebody who is not more uniquely qualified to lead a bureau that covers all of it — traditional threats like violent and organized crime to the constantly changing threats like terrorism and cyber-security,” he said.

Audit: FBI Makes Big Strides in Handling Confidential Informants

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The FBI is doing a better job handling confidential informants after a scathing report in 2006 criticized the agency’s dealings with sources, McLatchy reports.

Since the initial report, “the FBI has made substantial changes in its management of confidential human sources.”

Concerns were first raised in 2006 when it was discovered that confidential informant Katrina Leung had a longtime affair with her FBI handler.

Washington Times to Sue After Homeland Security Seizes Notes, Records from Reporter’s Home

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Washington Times is planning to sue the federal government after armed Homeland Security agents raided the home of a reporter and seized her notes, the newspaper reports.

Reporter Audrey Hudson is an award-winning reporter who has exposed problems in the Homeland Security Department’s Federal Air Marshals Service.

She said agents seized her private notes and records that she had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Included in the notes are identities of her sources, the Times reported.

The Times plans to file a lawsuit, saying the federal government violated Hudson’s constitutional rights.

“While we appreciate law enforcement’s right to investigate legitimate concerns, there is no reason for agents to use an unrelated gun case to seize the First Amendment protected materials of a reporter,” Times Editor John Solomon said. “This violates the very premise of a free press, and it raises additional concerns when one of the seizing agencies was a frequent target of the reporter’s work.

FBI Director Comey Warns of Hundreds of Furloughs if Sequestration Continues

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director James Comey warned that he may have to furlough 600 employees if Congress doesn’t restore the bureau’s budget, the Houston Press reports.

Comey also said he’d be forced to cut 3,500 jobs.

The result could be disastrous, he said, because the bureau will have a more difficult time handling investigations.

The sequestration also is preventing the FBI from hiring anyone new.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Ex-Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi Gets 3 Years in Prison

Rep. Rick Renzi

 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ex-Congressman Rick Renzi of Arizona was sentenced Monday in Tucson to three years in prison for extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering and racketeering.

His co-defendant, James Sandlin, was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for his role.

Renzi, 55, of Burke, Va., and Sandlin, 62, of Sherman, Texx. were convicted in June. Renzi was found guilty of 17 felony counts and Sandlin of 13.

“Mr. Renzi abused the power – and the corresponding trust – that comes with being a member of Congress by putting his own financial interests over the interests of the citizens he had sworn to serve,” Acting Assistant Attorney General  Mythili Raman said in a statement. “He fleeced his own insurance company to fund his run for Congress, and then exploited his position for personal gain. Mr. Renzi’s conviction and today’s sentence demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to fighting corruption at the highest levels of government.”

A Justice Department press release stated:

According to evidence at trial, Renzi, then a member of Congress from Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, promised in 2005 to use his legislative influence to profit from a federal land exchange that involved property owned by Sandlin, a real-estate investor.

At the time, Sandlin owed Renzi $700,000 in future payments from their business dealings, and Renzi threatened proponents of the land exchange that he would not support it unless they purchased Sandlin’s property in Cochise County, Ariz. When they refused, Renzi promised a second proponent of a land exchange that he would support the exchange if they purchased Sandlin’s property. According to an agreement reached in May 2005, Sandlin was paid $1 million in earnest money, out of which he paid $200,000 to Renzi. Just before Sandlin received the $1.6 million balance owed on the exchange, he paid an additional $533,000 to Renzi.

Evidence at trial further showed that from 2001 to 2003, Renzi engaged in insurance fraud by diverting his clients’ insurance premiums to fund his first campaign for Congress, and he subsequently sent false letters to his insurance customers and provided false statements to various state regulators who were investigating his activities.

 

 

 

Parker: Supreme Court to Decide Who Gets to Define “Mentally Retarded” for Purposes of the Death Penalty


Ross Parker

 Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.
  
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com
The cut-off IQ for the death penalty in Florida is 70 or less. Freddie Lee Hall scored a 71. He has been on death row for 35 years.

Hall was convicted of killing a pregnant woman and a deputy sheriff and, following the jury’s recommendation, the trial judge sentenced him to death. For 25 years he sat in his death row cell while his lawyers filed various appeals, all without success. Then the U. S. Supreme Court handed down Atkins v. Virginia in 2002, a 6-3 decision which held that the evolving standards of decency under the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment barred the execution of mentally retarded defendants. The case, however, left to the states the details of determining who was mentally retarded.

(Medical professionals rarely use the “retarded” term any more, preferring “intellectually disabled.” Since the cases and statutes continue to use the former term, I will too for the sake of clarity.)

The reasoning of Atkins was that the mentally retarded do not act with the same level of moral culpability because they lack the reasoning, judgment, and impulse control of normal adults. Although they still deserve sanctions for their crimes, executing them would not further the retribution and deterrence rationales which justify the ultimate penalty.

There were, perhaps, two subtexts in Atkins. First, the case was one more step in the growing public consensus in America that the application of the death penalty should either be eliminated or severely limited. It was one more chip in the capital punishment edifice that is incrementally crumbling.

Atkins was an important case in this evolution. Not only did it exempt another class of persons from the death penalty, but it recognized the development of a public consensus as a basis for doing so. The Court surveyed state legislatures and found 18 which had banned the practice. Add that number to the 13 which had at that time abolished the death penalty altogether, plus several others that had done so de facto and a trend became a consensus. Additionally the opinion included a provocative footnote suggesting a growing broader consensus against capital punishment. This the dissent vehemently decried, with Justice Scalia remarking that “seldom has an opinion of this Court rested so obviously on the personal views of its members.”

I wrote two columns earlier this year that in my view the death penalty was slowly dying and that outside of a small handful of states it has already become an anachronism. Full disclosure then and now, my personal view is that the death penalty in the 21st Century is morally wrong in a civilized society; that it can be freakishly wanton in its selection of people to execute; that its no-recourse finality strains the entire criminal justice system; that it provides precious little or no deterrence to craven impulsive murderers; and that there continues to be a possibility of a botched and inhumane administration of the instrument of death.

Most Americans, however, are increasingly concluding for entirely practical reasons that the application of the death penalty is simply too expensive, the appellate delays too laborious and uncertain, and the ultimate result too fraught with the intrusion of outside factors like race, poverty, unavailability of lethal drugs and the like.

More than any subjective factor of morality, the future of the death penalty is being determined by the growing sentiment that we simply cannot afford it. Even though a majority of Americans probably continue to believe that capital punishment is justified for the mass murderers we hear about on the news with disturbing regularity, they are no longer willing to pay the increasing price. Just as likely, pragmatic considerations in an era of economic insecurity affect those moral and practical decisions on whether as a society we need capital punishment.

The other point implied in Atkins is that the criminal justice system cannot guarantee a fair, reliable, and consistent result in capital cases involving an accused whose mental abilities are seriously subpar. Their limited ability to communicate and contribute to their own defense compromises even an effective defense counsel’s job. The result is that, either they plead to a non-capital sentence without a full consideration of their defenses, or they disproportionately face the one penalty which, if wrong, is unforgiving. Death.

Atkins seems to assume in its dictum that states will use the diagnostic criteria of the American Psychiatric Association. Most of the ones which at least nominally still have capital punishment do so. Juries, legislatures, judges, and governors have on quite a few occasions either rejected or overruled the death penalty for mentally retarded defendants.

Read more »

FBI, CIA Could Have Prevented Assassination of JFK Had They Heeded Warnings

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The FBI and CIA missed opportunities to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by not taking seriously enough threats from Lee Harvey Oswald, according to Philip Shenon’s new book, “A Cruel and Shocking Act,” reports the Orland Sentinel.

Days before the assassination, the president’s administration found a threatening note addressed to JFK.

The existence of the letter was never investigated by the Warren Commission because it had been destroyed.

The commission also didn’t know about a memo from former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who said Oswald even announced he was going to kill JFK, the Sentinel reports.

“There’s tremendous amount of material, much of it has only been released in recent years, that shows that both the FBI and the CIA were very aware of the threat that Lee Harvey Oswald posed,” Shenon said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Did Federal Agencies Miss Chances to Prevent Boston Marathon Bombing? Budget Cuts Delay Answer

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The government shutdown has caused more delays in a high-level investigation into whether federal agencies could have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings, the Boston Globe reports.

The furloughs and budget cuts have bogged down inspectors general of four federal agencies who are conducting a wide-sweeping review.

Before the budget hurdles, the officials had already notified Congress that it would not meet a September deadline.

When will they meet again? Nothing has been scheduled, the Globe reported.