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FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist al-Zawahiri Killed in Drone Strike in Afghanistan

Ayman al-Zawahiri, via FBI

The FBI’s most wanted al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan over the weekend, President Biden announced Monday night.  

Al-Zawahiri, 71, helped plan the 9/11 attack and led al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forced in 2011. 

“We make it clear again tonight that, that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide, if you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out,” Biden said.

Al-Zawahiri played key roles in plotting terrorist attacks since the 1990s. 

“To kill Americans and their allies — civilian and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in every country in which it is possible to do it,” al-Zawahiri wrote in a 1998 manifesto.

Biden warned other terrorists that they could be next. 

“And to those around the world who continue to seek to harm the United States, hear me now: We will always remain vigilant and we will act and we will always do what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe,” Biden said.

The FBI updated its Most Wanted Terrorist poster with al-Zawahiri’s status: “Deceased.”

Gregory Nelsen Named Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Cleveland Office

Special Agent in Charge Gregory Nelson

By Steve Neavling

Gregory D. Nelsen has been named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cleveland Office. 

Before the appointment, Nelsen was a deputy assistant director of the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division in West Virginia.  

Nelsen began working as a special agent for the FBI in 2001, when he was assigned to the Miami Field Office to investigate violent crime, drugs, gangs, and organized crime investigations. In 2006, he was promoted to supervisory special agent and moved to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMDD) at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

At WMDD, he was assigned to the CIA’s Counter Terrorist Center/WMD Iraq Unit. 

In 2008, Nelsen began training new agent trainees at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. 

In 2010, Nelsen became supervisor of human intelligence programs in the Buffalo Field Office in New York. He later supervised Buffalo’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. 

Nelsen moved to the Pittsburgh Field Office in 2016 and served as the assistant special agent in charge (ASAC) of the Criminal Branch and the Pennsylvania resident agencies. 

In 2017, he transitioned to ASAC over Pittsburgh’s cyber and intelligence programs. 

Nelsen became section chief of the CJIS Division’s National Threat Operations Section in 2019. 

In 2020, he was promoted to deputy assistant director of the CJIS Division’s Operational Programs Branch. 

Before joining the FBI, Nelsen was a police officer with the Virginia Beach Police Department in Virginia. He received a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

FBI Open to Settling Lawsuits by Larry Nassar’s Survivors

Larry Nassar is charged with child pornography.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI has indicated that it’s open to settling lawsuits over the bureau’s mishandling of an investigation into sexual abuse by disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. 

The bureau’s general counsel contacted attorneys representing the victims to say the FBI was “interested” in reaching a resolution in the lawsuits that are seeking more than $1 billion, the Associated Press reports.

More than 90 victims filed the lawsuit in June. 

Attorneys from both sides of the lawsuit declined to comment. 

An inspector general report in July 2021 found that the FBI failed to properly investigate the allegations. The bureau, for example, waited five weeks to interview one of the victims and failed to notify the FBI’s Lansing office or state law enforcement.

The report also accused W. Jay Abbot, the then-special agent in charge of the Indianapolis Field Office, of lying to the inspector general during the internal investigation “to minimize errors” made by his office.

According to the report, Nassar sexually abused at least 70 young athletes between 2015 and August 2016. Nassar is effectively serving a life sentence in prison. 

In May, the Justice Department said it decided it won’t pursue charges against two FBI agents for mishandling the investigation.

Trump’s Homeland Security Watchdog Scratched Plans to Save Secret Service Text Messages

Alex Gakos/Shutterstock.com

By Steve Neavling

Homeland Security’s internal watchdog had a chance to try and recover missing Secret Service text messages around the time of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari’s staff learned in February 2021 that the messages had been deleted when the Secret Service switched to a new system and got new devices.  

Cuffari’s office was going to get data specialists to help retrieve the messages, but he suddenly changed his mind. 

The House committee investigating the insurrection has been seeking the messages in hopes of revealing more information about Donald Trump’s actions on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021. 

When Cuffari notified the House and Senate Homeland Security committees this month that the text messages had been “erased,” he failed to disclose that “his office first discovered that deletion in December and failed to alert lawmakers or examine the phones,” The Post wrote. 

Cuffari’s spokesman decline to comment on the latest news. 

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Jimmy Hoffa Mystery

Not Again?! Texts Missing from Phones of Former Top Homeland Security Officials

Former Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

By Steve Neavling

Just weeks after the discovery that Secret Service text messages were deleted around the time of the Jan. 6 insurrection comes a new revelation: Phone records are missing for two former top Homeland Security officials.  

Text messages on the phones of former President Trump’s acting Homeland Security Secretary Chard Wolf and acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli were lost in a “reset” of government phones, The Washington Post reports

The so-called reset occurred when the pair lost their jobs in January 2021. 

The discovery is bad news for investigators of the Jan. 6 insurrection who were hoping to find evidence on the phones of top Homeland Security officials. 

Earlier this month, the Secret Service said it was unable to recover deleted text messages from its agents phones around the time of the insurrection.

In other news Friday, U.S. Secret Service Director James Murray will “briefly” delay his retirement amid the scandal to help facilitate a smooth transition to the agency’s next director,” The Hill reports

New ATF Director Dettelbach Calls for Collaboration with Other Law Enforcement Agencies

ATF Director Steven Dettelbach

By Steve Neavling

New ATF Director Steven Dettelbach said collaboration with other law enforcement agencies is key to reducing gun violence. 

In an interview Thursday with GM3, Dettelbach said he was in New York to meet with other agencies.

“The days of ‘this is turf, that’s your turf’ are over in law enforcement. We work together.” 

He added, “Back when I started this business as a prosecutor, 30 years ago, there were eight different agencies doing the same thing in their own little task forces, in their own little units. We cannot do that anymore. We have to share intelligence and share bodies in real-time ways.”

Dettelbach also said that it’s important to prevent people convicted of crimes from committing again. 

“The No. 1 predictor in many cases of whether you’re going to do something violent and be a criminal is wether you have done it before,” he said. “We need to do a better job of making sure people aren’t recidivists.”

Dettelbach was sworn in on July 19, about a week after the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment. As the agency’s first permanent leader since 2015, he said he owes it to his agents to defend them. 

“I feel a lot of obligation,” he said. “To do it is to stand up and fight for those (ATF) folks.”

Man Charged with Assaulting Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charges

Officer Brian Sicknick

By Steve Neavling

A West Virginia man accused of assaulting U.S. Capitol Police Office Brian D. Sicknick during the Jan. 6 insurrection pleaded guilty Wednesday to reduced charges as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. 

George Tanios was charged last year with dousing Sicknick with chemical spray during the riot. 

Sicknick died a day after the attack. It was originally believed that Sicknick died from injuries sustained during the attack, but an autopsy later revealed that he died of natural causes. 

Tanios pleaded guilty to one count of illegally entering a restricted area and one count of disorderly conduct, The New York Times reports. In exchange for the guilty pleas, prosecutors dismissed an assault charge.

Tanios now faces up to a year in prison on each of the misdemeanor charges.