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Witness in “Underwear Bomber” Trial Says He Heard Someone Yell: “Hey Dude, Your Pants Are on Fire!”

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marshals photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — If it hadn’t have been so potentially deadly and scary, Nigerian terrorism suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s Christmas day Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009 might have made a good Saturday Night Live skit.

Witness Michael Zantow, who was flying to Wisconsin to visit his ailing mom from his job in the Middle East as a U.S. Air Force contractor, testified Tuesday in U.S. District Court in downtown Detroit that he was sitting one row behind Abdulmutallab  (aka The Underwear Bomber) when the action started, The Detroit News reported.

Zantow testified that he noticed Abdulmutallab cover himself with a blanket minutes before hearing a loud pop, the News reported.

Zantow said seconds passed before a man sitting next to Abdulmutallab yelled: “Hey dude, your pants are on fire!”

He also testified, according to the News: “His underwear resembled something I hadn’t seen before. It was bulky, it reminded me of my son’s Pull-Ups. I assumed it was adult Pampers.”

The bomb never detonated and Abdulmutallab was arrested and quickly dubbed the “Underwear Bomber.”

Earlier in trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel told jurors in opening statements that Addulmutallab thought by trying to blow up the plane “he would end up in heaven because he would be a martyr.”

“He wanted jihad, and he sought it out and he found it,” Tukel told jurors.

Abdulmutallab, who is representing himself, but has an attorney assisting in his defense, was originally expected to give an opening statement. Then he handed the job off to his attorney Anthony Chambers, who decided to forgo any opening statement, the News reported.

Abdulmutallab appeared to figure he had nothing to lose by going to trial since the feds had offered him no deal considering they figured they had a smoking gun — or in his case, smoking underwear.

The trial is expected to last about a month.

To read more click here.

 

Spanish Politician Plans to Sue FBI for Using His Face for Obama Mock-Up Photo

FBI used lawmaker's photo for bin Laden

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Being told you look like someone famous might be flattering. Then again, it depends who.

Spanish MP (Member of Parliament) Gaspar Llamazares said he wants to sue the FBI, reports the Guardian, for using  a photo of his face to create most wanted images of top al Qaeda operatives, Osama Bin Laden and Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was killed in Pakistan in August,  Llamazares pointed out.

“I’m going to sue the FBI because they have not made things right apart from offering a weak apology through clenched teeth,” he told Spanish radio station Cadina SER.  “I’d like to remind you that the two people whose images were put together using parts of my face have since been assassinated,” he said.

Better to be a look alike for someone like Brad Pitt.

To read more click here.

 

Feds Target WikiLeaks with Controversial Court Order

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Using a law passed before the birth of the Internet, the U.S. government has obtained a controversial court order to force Google and a small Internet provider, Sonic.net, to hand over information regarding a WikiLeaks volunteer, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The WikiLeaks volunteer was identified as Jacob Applebaum, and the government’s request included the email addresses of people Applebaum had corresponded with in the last two years, but not the full emails, the Journal reported. Both Google and the Internet service provider, Sonic.net Inc., pressed for the right to inform Applebaum, 28, who has not yet been charged with any wrongdoing, the Journal reported.

“The court clashes in the WikiLeaks case provide a rare public window into the growing debate over a federal law that lets the government secretly obtain information from people’s email and cellphones without a search warrant,” the Journal wrote.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, passed in 1986, three years before the Internet existed, has bumped up against a coalition of tech companies-including Google, Microsoft Corp. and AT&T, which have pushed to  update the law in to conform to standards of the Internet age.

They’d like to see the law require search warrants in digital investigations.

“The law was designed to give the same protections to electronic communications that were already in place for phone calls and regular mail,” reports the Journal, “but it didn’t envision a time when cellphones transmitted locations and people stored important documents on remote services, such as Gmail, rather than on their own computers.”

To read more click here.

 

Fed Judge Says Govt. Doesn’t Have to Pay for FBI Agent Smashing Up $750,000 Ferrari

Latest model of Ferrari F50

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — Having immunity has its benefits.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn of Detroit has dismissed a lawsuit by a suburban Detroit insurance company that was trying to get the government to pay up after an FBI agent smashed up a stolen $750,000, 1995 F50 Ferrari that was in government custody, the Associated Press reported.

The judge ruled that federal law grants immunity to the feds if the property is being held by law enforcement, AP reported.

The judge concluded that the wreck was “certainly unfortunate,” but the government can’t be sued in these matters, AP’s Ed White  reported.

AP reported that the insurance company, Motors Insurance of Southfield, Mi., believes the FBI agent and the prosecutor in the car were taking the Ferrari for a joyride when the agent lost control in 2009 in Lexington, Ky.

AP reported that the car was stolen in Rosemont, Pa., in 2003 and eventually recovered in Kentucky.

AP reported that an email released to the insurance company showed that Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Hamilton Thompson was invited for a “short ride” before the car was moved from the impound garage.

 

10th Anniversary of Sept. 11 Didn’t Stop People From Bringing Guns to Airports

file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

You’d think just two weeks after the 10th Anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, people would be conscious about bringing guns to airports. You’d think.

But nooo.

As part of ticklethewire.com’s occasional check up on guns at airports, we found that 20 firearms were found at airport checkpoints in the U.S. the week of Sept. 22 to Oct. 2, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

What’s more, during that week two “artfully concealed prohibited items” were found and 12 passengers were arrested after investigations of suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents.

 

Column: Atty. Gen. Holder Need to Step and Take Responsibility for ATF’s Fast and Furious

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. is an honorable man.

So I believe him when he tells Congress he didn’t know about ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious until the controversy exploded in 2011.

The problem is that he needs to take responsibility for it. Period. He’s the top dog. People in his organization had some inkling last year that they might be sitting on a political stink bomb. They should have given him a heads up. They need to take responsibility as well.

It’s like the household where the kids hide matches in the house and play with them all the time, and one day burn down their neighbor’s garage. Yes, the parents can tell the neighbor “sorry”, but they also have to take some responsibility even if they had no clue the kids were always playing with matches.

CBS News recently reported that “two Justice Department officials mulled it over in an email exchange Oct. 18, 2010.”

“It’s a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but is a significant set of prosecutions,” said Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit James Trusty replied “I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like, ‘Finally they’re going after people who sent guns down there.'”

That sounds to me like someone in the Justice Department figured out the department was playing with matches by carrying out a program that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. Yes, they contemplated that someone could get burned.

We need to clean up this mess sooner than later. One helpful step along the way would be for Holder to say something to the effect: “Sure I didn’t know about Fast and Furious until the controversy erupted, but I take full responsibility and I want to find out why I wasn’t apprised of something so significant that endangered lives and had international implications.”

p.s. Atty. Gen. Holder, feel free to use that quote.

 

Sentencing Shift Gives New Leverage to Prosecutors

By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
New York Times

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After decades of new laws to toughen sentencing for criminals, prosecutors have gained greater leverage to extract guilty pleas from defendants and reduce the number of cases that go to trial, often by using the threat of more serious charges with mandatory sentences or other harsher penalties.

Some experts say the process has become coercive in many state and federal jurisdictions, forcing defendants to weigh their options based on the relative risks of facing a judge and jury rather than simple matters of guilt or innocence. In effect, prosecutors are giving defendants more reasons to avoid having their day in court.

“We now have an incredible concentration of power in the hands of prosecutors,” said Richard E. Myers II, a former assistant United States attorney who is now an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina. He said that so much influence now resides with prosecutors that “in the wrong hands, the criminal justice system can be held hostage.”

To read the full story click here.

 

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST 

 

 

The War of the Letters: Rep. Issa Fires Back at Atty. Gen. Holder; Accuses Holder of Shifting Blame

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The war of letters between Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif) and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. continues.

The latest: Issa released on Monday a letter he sent to Holder sharply chastising him. Issa’s letter was in response to one Holder wrote Friday to Issa saying his his Congressional testimony on Operation Fast and Furious was truthful. ATF operation encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell to straw purchasers, with hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican Carels. But ATF lost track of many guns, some which surfaced at crimes scenes on both sides of the border.

“Your letter dated October 7 is deeply disappointing,” Issa wrote. “Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate, and attempt to change the topic away from the Department’s responsibility in the creation, implementation, and authorization of this reckless program.

“You claim that, after months of silence, you ‘must now address these issues’ over Fast and Furious because of the harmful discourse of the past few days. Yet, the only major development of these past few days has been the release of multiple documents showing that you and your senior staff had been briefed, on numerous occasions, about Fast and Furious.”

Holder testified before Congress earlier this year that he hadn’t heard of the operation until the controversy over it surfaced.

Holder said even though Justice Department briefing papers in 2010 mentioned Fast and Furious, he did not read them and relied on his staff to brief him on important matters because of the volume of cases the department handles.

Issa continued in his letter:

“You failed to own up to your responsibility to safeguard the American public by hiding behind “[a]ttorneys in [your] office and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General,” who you now claim did not bring this information to your attention.  As a result of your failure to act on these memos sent to you, nearly 500 additional firearms were purchased under Fast and Furious.

“The facts simply do not support any claim that Fast and Furious did not reach the highest levels of the Justice Department. Actually, Fast and Furious did reach the ultimate authority in the Department – you.”

The  Full Letter:

Dear Attorney General Holder:

From the beginning of the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice has offered a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program. These defenses have been aimed at undermining the investigation. From the start, the Department insisted that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked Senator Grassley and me to defer our oversight responsibilities over its concerns about our purported interference with its ongoing criminal investigations. Additionally, the Department steadfastly insisted that gunwalking did not occur.

Read more »