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Column: Ex-ATF Official Tries to Sort Out Our Complex Gun Laws

Bernie La Forest/facebook

Bernard La Forest retired from ATF after heading up its offices in Kansas City, Detroit, Phoenix and Los Angeles. His column is in response to a column by ticklethewire.com editor Allan Lengel supporting an ATF regulation that requires gun dealers in states bordering Mexico to report multiple sales of assault weapons.
 
By Bernarld La Forest
For ticklethewire.com

Of course, guns are already heavily regulated by the Federal Government through its licensing/regulatory and enforcement oversight. Then there are the substantial laws on the books by several States . . . that would be several, but not all. After that, counties and municipalities are free to enact their own laws.

a. The problem with the above . . . much too much confusion for citizens.

b. Another observation about “gun laws” is the fact that some governmental entities try to over-restrict, while others come close to “demanding” that citizens buy and maintain a gun . . . whether they want to or not!

2. The current discussion about the Phoenix investigation has opened the door to what many law enforcement officials have observed in the past as “shortcomings” in the Gun Control Act and its amendments and additions since 1968.

Read more »

Mass. Man Pleads Guilty to Spying for Israel

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A Massachusetts man has copted a plea to trying to spy for Israel.

Elliot Doxer, 43, an employee of a high-tech company, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Boston federal court to foreign economic espionage for providing trade secrets over an 18-month period to an undercover FBI agent posing as an Israeli intelligence officer.

The plea agreement said that on June 22, 2006, Doxer sent an email to the Israeli consulate in Boston saying he worked for the finance department of Akamai Technologies, Inc., and was willing to provide any information that might help Israel.

Authorities said Doxer said DOXER said his chief desire “was to help our homeland and our war against our enemies.” He also asked to be paid for the risks he was taking.

In September 2007, an FBI agent posing as an undercover Israeli intelligence officer spoke to Doxer and established a “dead drop” where the agent and Doxer could exchange written communications.

From October 2007 through March 2009, Doxer visited the dead drop at least 62 times to leave information, retrieve communications, and check for new communications.

Included in the trade secret information that Doxer provided the undercover agent were an extensive list of Akamai’s customers; contracts between the company and various customers revealing contact, services, pricing, and termination date information; and a comprehensive list of the company’s employees that revealed their positions and full contact information.

In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said:

“We acknowledge the Government of Israel for their cooperation in this investigation, and underscore that the Information does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offense under U.S. laws in this case. We would also like to acknowledge and thank Akamai Technologies, Inc., for its assistance throughout all stages of the investigation and prosecution.”

Doxer was initially arrested on on Oct. 6, 2010.

 

Md. Man With Fake Teaching Credentials Gets 21 Months; Taught Law Enforcement Including FBI

William Hillar

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Who the heck is William G. Hillar?

Well, if you read his online bio you’d see that he had some darn impressive credentials in the military, had a Ph.d and he’s been raking in cash teaching, conducting workshops and giving speeches, and that he received training in counter-terrorism and psychological warfare while in the armed forces.

Problem is, federal authorities say, he’s a fraud.  His credentials were totally bogus.

On Tuesday, Hillar, 66, of Millersville, Md., was sentenced  in Baltimore federal court to 1 year and 9 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for lying about his military experience and academic credentials in order to gain employment for teaching and training. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $171,415 and perform 500 community hours at the Maryland State Veterans Cemeteries.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that he duped government agencies including the FBI’s Command College, which paid him $17,369 from 2000 to 2010, according to court documents.

“William G. Hillar claimed that he had earned praise as a hero, but the truth is that he deserves condemnation as a liar,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in a statement. “He did not serve in the U.S. Army, did not receive military training in counter-terrorism and psychological warfare, and did not lose his daughter to sex traffickers.”

Authorities alleged that Hillar, for at least the past 10 years, has been teaching, leading workshops, giving speeches and conducting training for public and private sector clients under false pretenses.

A website that has been taken down contained a “Bio Info” page that stated “William G. Hillar is a retired Colonel of the U.S. Army Special Forces and had served in Asia, the Middle East, and Central and South America, and his training included tactical counter-terrorism, explosive ordnance, emergency medicine and psychological warfare.

It also said Hillar “holds a B.A. in Psychology, and M.A. in Education, a Ph.D. in Health Education, and an honorary Doctorate in Intercultural Relations, authorities said.

But a court affidavits states that a search of military and civilian records for Hillar in November 2010 showed he had not served with the U.S. Army, and instead, was an enlisted sailor in the U.S. Coast Guard reserves from 1962 to 1970.

Authorities alleged that he was never deployed at the locations stated on his website, nor was he given any Coast Guard training in tactical counter-terrorism, explosive ordnance, emergency medicine and psychological warfare.

He attended the University of Oregon from 1970 to 1973, but he did not earn a Ph.D, authorities said.

Moreover, the government’s sentencing memorandum states that Hillar fabricated a gruesome tale that his own daughter had been kidnaped, forced into sex slavery, sodomized and tortured before being hacked to death with machetes and thrown into the sea.

He claimed that this experience and his life story was the basis for the 2008 film “Taken”. Authorities said the press attention from the film generated free press for Hillar.

Hillar admitted that he fabricated the story about his daughter, who was alive and well, authorities said.

 

Feds Bust San Francisco Giant Payroll Managers on Charges of Swiping $1.5 Mil

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It looks like it’s strike three for the ex-payroll manager for the San Francisco Giants.

The feds have charged Robin O’Connor, 41, of the San Francisco Bay area, with embezzling more than $1.5 million from the club’s employees, including players and buying fancy cars and a new home, the Associated Press reported.

AP reported that the team confronted her in July and she admitted diverting more than $600,000 from two Giants employees. She was fire immediately, according to an FBI affidavit, AP reported.

“We immediately notified the United States Attorney’s office and are working with the federal authorities to ensure that this matter is thoroughly investigated and that any wrongdoing is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the team said in a statement, according to AP.

A team audit showed she had made 11 suspicious bank deposits totaling $1,513,836, an FBI affidavit said.

AP reported that she made $80,000 and was eligible for bonuses.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

 

 

Authorities Concerned Drug Smugglers Increasingly Turning to Tunnels

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In the past two weeks, law enforcement in Arizona has found two tunnels near the Mexican border, the Arizona Republic reported.

The paper reported that authorities are becoming increasingly concerned that that drug smugglers are turning more to tunnels as a way to smuggle drugs as the U.S. tightens things up at the border.

In Douglas, Az., law enforcement last week found a large hole in the floor of a house with mounds of dirt piled high in other rooms, the paper reported. The hole was the opening for a tunnel drug smugglers were digging from the U.S. to Mexico.

The paper reported that this summer the Border Patrol finished putting up new fencing in Nogales, a border town, so agents can see the other side. That has made it harder for smugglers to avoid detection.

“As smuggling organizations have more trouble moving their contraband both between the ports of entry and through the ports of entry due to increased technology and vigilance at the ports, then they will turn to more of these covert measures,” Vincent Picard, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Phoenix, told the paper.

 

 

New Acting ATF Director Todd Jones No Stranger to Fed Law Enforcement; Considered Pro ATF

U.S. Atty. Jones, new acting ATF Dir.

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The new acting director of ATF, B. Todd Jones, is no stranger to federal law enforcement.

In fact Jones is on his second go around as U.S. Attorney in Minnesota.

Jones, who will remain the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota while serving as acting head of ATF, was first appointed to the U.S. Attorney job by President Clinton in 1998. He remained on the job until January 2001.  He was again nominated in 2009, this time by President Obama, and was confirmed in August of that year.

One ATF agent on Tuesday told ticklethewire.com that Jones has a reputation as being pro-ATF, an issue that’s of obvious concern to agents.

After leaving the U.S. Attorney post in 2001, Jones went on to work as a partner with a major national law firm in Minneapolis, Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi,, where he focused on complex business litigation. He represented a number of organizations and individuals in both criminal and civil regulatory matters.

President Obama nominated him in 2009 as the U.S. Attorney and he was confirmed by the Senate in August of that year.

After taking office, Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. appointed Jones to serve as Chair of the Attorney General Advisory Committee (AGAC), a body that consists of 18 U. S. Attorneys. The committee is responsible for advising the Attorney General on a broad array of Department of Justice policy issues.

Jones earned his law degree from  the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983.  After being accepted by the Minnesota bar, he went on active duty in the United States Marine Corps, where he served as both a trial defense counsel and prosecutor in a number of courts martial proceedings.

In 1989, he and his family returned to Minnesota, where he developed a civil litigation practice encompassing a wide variety of legal matters, ranging from products liability defense and insurance coverage disputes to environmental and labor and employment controversies in both a private and public sector setting.

A  Sept. 19, 2009 story in the Minneapolis Tribune, reported that Jones, as a Marines Corps office, was recalled to active duty in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War, where he learned lesson on juggling multiple responsibilities of national security, law enforcement and justice.

“I learned the importance of focus, of working as a team,” he told the paper.

“Everything cannot be a priority,” he was quoted as saying. “Or nothing is a priority.”

 

ATF Agents See Director’s Departure as a “Fresh Start”

 

Ken Melson/atf photo

 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Many ATF agents on Tuesday welcomed the news that acting Director Ken Melson was stepping down, saying his departure marked a step in the right direction in trying to revive a demoralized agency.

“I think everyone knew this was coming,” said one veteran ATF agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It’s a breath of fresh air.  It’s a fresh start. That’s the general sentiment.”

Melson’s departure seemed to break the paralysis that the department seemed to be in after  taking regular beatings in  the media and on Capitol Hill over “Operation Fast and Furious”, an ATF program out of Arizona that encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers or middlemen, all with the hopes of tracking the guns to the Mexican Cartels.

Melson was never going to become the permanent director. The White House nominee for the spot, Andrew  Traver, who heads up Chicago’s ATF, had problems getting confirmed. So Melson remaining in that spot only accentuated how problematic things had become and how politically weak ATF was.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) led the charge, and began investigating the Fast and Furious program. Melson remained silent during most the controversy, which angered some within ATF. Melson eventually spoke to Congressional investigators and complained that the Justice Department had muzzled him and prevented him from even explaining to his troops what was going on with Fast and Furious.

Tuesday’s announcement gave hope to agents, including one who said morale was the lowest it had ever been — even lower than in the wake of Waco.

“There is cautious optimism,” said the agent. “We can move forward. ”

The agent said he had heard good things about the new acting director , B. Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota.

“I’m hearing positive things about him,” he said. “He’s pro-ATF.”

The agent added that Melson stepping down was a good start, but “more needs to be done.”

Another agent called Melson’s departure “bitter-sweet”, saying “he’s a very personable individual, a good leader.”

“But I can only look forward,” the agent said.

Interestingly, Melson will return to the Justice Department where he once headed up the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices around the country. In recent times, during the Fast and Furious operation, he seemed to develop a distrust for the Justice Department, according to one source.

Melson will head over to Justice as a Senior Advisor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy (OLP) where he will specialize in forensic science policy issues at the Department of Justice

 

Fed Sting Involving Sneakers and Guns Nabs 60

 By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

There’s a sneaker and jersey store in Mansfield, Ohio that was dealing with much more than sneakers and jerseys. In fact, the feds were running the store and buying illegal guns and drugs from bad guys as part of a year-long sting operation that netted 60 arrests, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

The ATF worked with the office of U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Richland County Sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices on the case, the paper reported.

“I have warned that the availability of guns was a serious issue for any urban center. It’s an issue that is playing out in our neighborhoods everyday,” said Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson.