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VP Biden Breaks New Ground: First Protectee to Collect Rent from Secret Service

govt photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

If Vice President Joe Biden was looking to break new ground as the VP, by gosh, he’s done it.

The Delaware News Journal reports that he is the first U.S. Secret Service protectee to receive rental income as a landlord for the agents who protect him.

Biden rents out a cottage at his suburban Wilmington home in Delaware to the Secret Service for $2,200 a month. So far, he’s gotten more than $13,000 and he’s eligible to get a total of $66,000 under a contract that expires in 2013.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told the paper:

“We’ve not rented from protectees before.”

ATF Dir. Ken Melson Getting Out and Talking to the Troops

Ken Melson/atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ken Melson, the acting director of ATF, who seemed like a goner last month, is now acting as if he might be around for a while.

In fact, Melson is making an effort to show more leadership by communicating more with the troops. Last week, he conducted a town hall meeting at headquarters to discuss the state of ATF with employees, according to several law enforcement people familiar with the situation.

And since then, he’s been conducting meetings with groups of special agents in charge, who head up ATF offices around the country.

One person familiar with the meetings said the townhall meeting at headquarters dealt primarily with ATF’s budget and other agency matters.  But at least one person asked Melson about Operation Fast and Furious, the controversial operation that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell weapons to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

ATF lost track of a lot of those weapons, some of which surfaced at crime scenes. That triggered a major controversy for ATF, perhaps the biggest since Waco.

In meeting with SACs in recent days, Melson has tried to assure the officials that Fast and Furious was a Phoenix Division issue and was not a systemic problem within ATF,  according to one person.

However, the ATF officials in the field told Melson that the Fast and Furious issue went far beyond the Phoenix Division — at least when it came to harming morale inside the agency.

Many SACs were also angry about the recent Congressional testimony of William Newell, who headed the Phoenix office during the Fast and Furious Operation. They felt his testimony was less than forthright.

Melson indicated that no punitive action would be taken against  anyone at ATF until the Office of Inspector General issues a report on the matter.

Rumors had circulated that Melson, who complained about being the Justice Department scapegoat in the Fast and Furious mess, might be replaced in early July by Andrew Traver, head of the Chicago ATF, who has been nominated by the White House to become the permanent director.

But that never happened, possibly because it would have looked bad if  Melson was replaced just as he was starting to speak up about the mess to Congressional investigators.

Melson had complained to Congressional investigators that he was being muzzled by the Justice Department and kept from communicating to the troops about the Fast and Furious controversy.

According to his testimony provided to investigators and released by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Melson said:

“Part of the problem, and one of the things that infuriated me was that I have not been allowed to communicate to the troops about anything. So, for example, earlier on, I wanted to do a broadcast that just talked about the case because everybody was wondering what’s this case about? What are you doing at headquarters?

“How come you were not issuing press releases and how come you were not ordering press conference ad pushing back and things like that? And I was told not do do that. Then after we wanted to do several things to talk to our people about what this case was about, what it wasn’t about, and you know, where were were going and the fact that we were cooperating as much as we could with the committee and with the Department, but we were restrained from doing that.”

Attorneys for Accused Mexican Drug Lord Says Justice Department Protected Him

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Mexico may not be thrilled about the latest allegations coming out of the U.S.

The news service All Headline News (AHN) reports that court filings in an upcoming Chicago case against accused Mexican drug lord Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla claim the Justice Department agreed to protect Niebla from prosecution in exchange for information about other drug cartels.

Zambada, 36, is the son of an alleged leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel that operates in Mexico’s western states, AHN reported

The filing by Zambada’s attorneys claims the Justice Department gave the Sinaloa cartel’s leaders “carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the rest of the United States.”

ATF Ups Game in APP World

Screen shot of ATF APP

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

ATF is upping its game in the technology world.

The agency announced Wednesday the release of Apps for Android and Windows Phone 7 devices, and an updated application for Apple iPhone and iPod touch devices.

“With the latest release of the iOS ATF app, developed in cooperation with NIC Inc., users will have the added ability to access information regarding firearms types and nomenclature,” a press release said.

“Android and Windows Phone 7 users will be able to learn about ATF history and areas of expertise, find their local ATF field office and sign up for e-mail updates on the latest ATF-related news.”

“ATF is committed to making its mobile presence one that proves both educational to the general public and useful to our industry and law enforcement partners,” said Scot Thomasson, chief of ATF Public Affairs Division. “The iOS update along with the Android and Windows Phone 7 versions are important steps toward that goal.”

NRA Files Suit to Block ATF from Monitoring Gun Sales Along Mexico Border

atf file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklthewire.com

The National Rifle Association, which is feared and revered by many on Capitol Hill — and loathed by others — is flexing its muscle in its never ending battle with ATF.

The latest: The New York Times reports that the NRA on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging a federal regulation that requires gun dealers in states  along the Mexican border to report sales of two or more semiautomatic rifles within five days that can use ammunition larger than .22 caliber.

The NRA claims that Obama administration exceeded its power when it implemented the regulation last month without Congressional approval. It asks a judge to block ATF from enforcing the regulation.

“N.R.A. has always viewed this as a blatant attempt by the Obama administration to pursue their gun control agenda through back-door rule-making, and the N.R.A. will fight them every step of the way,” said Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the gun rights group, according to the Times.

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. vowed to “vigorously oppose” the N.R.A. challenge, the Times reported.

“We think that the action we have taken is consistent with the law,” Holder told reporters on Wednesday, “and that the measures that we are proposing are appropriate ones to stop the flow of guns from the United States into Mexico.”

For Ex-Congressman Jefferson, Justice Delayed Means Freedom

exRep. Jefferson at sentencing in 2009 /Sketch by Art Lien/NBC News

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

There’s an old saying: “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.”

But for ex-Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, justice delayed means more FREEDOM.

Bruce Alpert, a star reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, reports : ” Almost two years after a federal jury found former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson guilty of 11 counts of public corruption, oral arguments in his appeal have again been delayed.”

Jefferson, now 64,  was sentenced in November 2009 to 13 years in prison, but has been allowed to remain free pending his appeal, which has been delayed and delayed.

The New Orleans paper reported that the  4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals initially scheduled a hearing on the matter in May, but delayed that until September after Jefferson’s lawyer said he need more time to recover from treatment for lymphoma.

Now, the court says it has scheduling conflicts and will hold the hearing in late October, the paper reported.

Jefferson gained national notoriety when the FBI raided his home on Capitol Hill in the summer of 2005 and recovered $90,000 in his freezer. The money had been given to him by a business woman who was working with the FBI as part of a sting.

He lost his bid for re-election in 2008.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI Seeks Public’s Help With Suspicious Package that Damaged a Detroit Women’s Clinic

fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — The FBI is turning to public for help in nabbing the person who left a suspicious package last month outside of a women’s healthcare  clinic  in Northwest Detroit, which caused damage to the clinic.

The FBI said sometime after 1:30 p.m. on Saturday July 16, and before 8:30 a.m. on Monday, July 18, a package was left at Summit Women’s Center located at 15801 West McNicols Road. The outside of the building was burned and a window was broken. Authorities did not describe the object.

The damage to the building may constitute a violation of the FACE Act, a civil rights violation, the FBI said.

The FBI Detroit Field Office is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the identification and arrest of those involved.

ICE Busts 72 in Crackdown on Child Porn and Child Exploitation

Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Federal authorities on Wednesday announced charges against 72 people in connection with an international network dedicated to the sexual abuse of children and the creation and dissemination of child pornography.

Authorities said it was the largest prosecution of its kind in the U.S.  involving a pedephillia bulletin board.

The investigation, lead by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and  dubbed “Operation Delego”, was launched in December 2009 and targeted the 72 defendants and more than 500 other people around the world who participated in “Dreamboard”– a private, members-only, online bulletin board that promote pedophilia and encourage the sexual abuse of very young children, authorities said.

To date, 52 of the 72 charged defendants have been arrested in the U.S. and abroad, authorities said.

Authorities said members traded graphic images and videos of adults molesting children 12 years-old and under, often violently, and “collectively created a massive private library of images of child sexual abuse.

“The members of this criminal network shared a demented dream to create the preeminent online community for the promotion of child sexual exploitation but for the children they victimized, this was nothing short of a nightmare,” said Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. in a statement. “This operation marks another important step forward in our work to protect children across – and beyond – this country. Our nation’s fight to protect the rights, interests, and safety of children goes on, and it will continue to be a top priority of this Justice Department.”

“This operation is an example of the good work that DHS, through its principal investigative arm, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), does every year in cooperation with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to protect children,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“As alleged in court documents, Dreamboard was a self-described global ‘community’ of pedophiles dedicated to the relentless victimization and exploitation of children 12 and under,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Using sophisticated methods to evade detection by law enforcement, Dreamboard members allegedly used the power and anonymity of the Internet to motivate each other to commit their horrific acts of sexual abuse of minors and trading in child pornography. “