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Latest FBI Campaign to Find Mobster “Whitey” Bulger Brings in Tips Beyond “Our Expectations”

Boston Mobster Whitey Bulger

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The latest FBI campaign to try and nab Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger is paying off — at least if you measure it by the bulk of tips.

The Boston Globe reports the FBI has gotten a number of tips that have “exceeded our expectations”, the result of  a new ad campaign aimed at finding Bulger’s girlfriend, who is believed to be with him. Still, nothing yet in terms of capturing the ever-elusive gangster.

The new campaign includes billboards and 30-second daytime television spots in 14 cities, and focuses on Bulger’s companion Catherine Greig, 60.  The FBI hopes people will recognize Greig, and that will lead to Bulger’s arrest. She is also wanted for harboring a fugitive.

“We’ve been effective and efficient in reaching the geographic areas that we intended to,’’ FBI Special Agent Gregory Comcowich of Boston told the Globe. “The number of tips has exceeded our expectations.’’

Ex-Seattle U.S. Atty. John McKay Backs Push to Legalize Pot

John McKay

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Granted, the irony is rich. But ex-Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay, a President Bush appointee, says he has his reasons for joining a coalition that’s pushing an initiative to legalize marijuana in the state of Washington.

McKay, 55, contends that criminalizing marijuana creates a black market that benefits  international cartels and crime rings, according to an article in the Seattle Times.

“That’s what drives my concern: The black market fuels the cartels, and that’s what allows them to buy the guns they use to kill people,” McKay said, according to the Times.  “A lot of Americans smoke pot, and they’re willing to pay for it. I think prohibition is a dumb policy, and there are a lot of line federal prosecutors who share the view that the policy is suspect.”

The group is being led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. The group decided to push for the initiative after Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed most of a medical-marijuana bill that had passed the state Legislature, the paper reported.

The paper reported that the group will have until  the end of this year to gather more than 240,000 signatures to get the initiative before the Legislature, which could approve it or let it go before the voters.

McKay was one of eight U.S. Attorney’s fired by the Bush administration in 2006 in what became a highly controversial matter.  Critics accused the administration of playing politics. The administration claimed the firings were based on performance.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

More Shakeups at ATF

Mark Potter/atf photo

Mark Potter/atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Besides the anticipated change at the top at ATF, other changes are coming.

Ronald B.  Turk, special agent in charge of the New York office, has been named Deputy Assistant Director  for Field Operations for the Central Region of  the U.S.

Mark Potter, head of the Philly office, has been named Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations for the Western Region of the U.S. and International Operations.

And Gregory K.  Gant, special agent in charge of the Atlanta office, has been named Deputy Assistant Director for Public and Governmental Affairs.  Those changes are due to take effect in August.

In Phoenix, in eye of the hurricane, where “Operation Fast Furious” was run, Thomas E. Brandon, who headed the Detroit office, has already been permanently assigned there to try and clean up the mess and raise morale.

He replaces William D. Newell, who was supposed to become the ATF attache for Mexico. But Newell has been temporarily assigned to Washington to supposedly help in the Congressional inquiry into Operation Fast and Furious.

Ken Melson, acting head of ATF, is expected to be replaced by Andrew Traver, who has been nominated for the permanent spot.   Traver met Tuesday afternoon with Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr.

On top of that change, some think it’s just a matter of time before the second in command, William J. Hoover, is replaced.

Rep. Issa Pushes for ATF Chief Melson to Step Down; Likely to Happen Anyways

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Rep. Darrell Issa on Tuesday told Fox News that acting ATF director Ken Melson should resign — something that’s likely to happen anyways.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called Melson “part of the bad judgment” that led to the disastrous and ill thought out program “Operation Fast and Furious.” The program encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers — all with the hope of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

Melson is expected to step down this week and be replaced by Andrew Traver. Traver would likely become acting director pending the outcome of his presidential nomination for the post.

His nomination has already run into problems in the Senate after the NRA came after Traver, the head of the Chicago ATF office. The NRA claims he’s anti-gun owner rights.

Issa also told Fox others should take the blame as well.

“It wasn’t just him,” he said. “This was a program so stupid from the start. … Clearly at Justice, at high levels, they knew the details because they were funding and coordinating this project.”

He said Atty. Gen. Eric Holder “should have known. It was his obligation to know.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) released a letter Tuesday that he wrote to Melson complaining that ATF inaccurately reflected the scope and source of the problem of firearms in Mexico and the drug trafficking organization violence.

The letter is as follows:

Kenneth Melson
Acting Director
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives
U.S. Department of Justice
99 New York Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20226

Dear Acting Director Melson:

I write today in response to a June 10, 2011, article in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Mexican Guns Tied to U.S.”, which cites a letter you sent to Senator Diane Feinstein, the Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control (“Caucus”).

As the Co-Chairman of the Caucus, and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary (“Committee”), I have been investigating serious allegations raised by whistleblowers within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that agents knowingly allowed weapons to be sold to straw purchasers who then transferred those weapons to Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (“DTOs”).

Read more »

Column: Traver Likely to Become Acting Chief of ATF; Not Likely to Get Confirmed

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Andrew Traver, the man the White House nominated last November to head up ATF,  is in Washington Tuesday to speak to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.

His arrival comes in the midst of a major controversy — or screw up as some might say — involving ATF’s “Operation Fast and Furious”, which encouraged gun dealers to sell to “straw purchasers” — all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

What’s expected to happen is that Traver, who heads up the Chicago ATF office,  will be appointed acting director of ATF, replacing the acting head Kenneth Melson, who will likely be pressured to resign.

After that, what’s also likely to happen is that Traver will never be confirmed. I could be wrong. But the NRA has launched an aggressive campaign to block his confirmation, claiming he’s very anti-gun rights. The confirmation has been stalled in the Senate.

The Obama White House doesn’t seem to have the appetite for a fight like that. And it’s  not likely to want to spend it’s political capital on Traver — at least not until the 2012 election is over.

So Traver will remain acting chief, certainly past the election. Should Obama win re-election, then he might go for a recess appointment, or just let Traver remain as acting.  Or maybe he’ll find someone who is more acceptable to the NRA, though I think that’s not likely — not if you’re looking for someone to aggressively enforce gun laws.

Unfortunately, acting directors never have the same clout,the same sway as a permanent director.   And just  in case they still have a shot at confirmation, they have to be extra careful as to what they say or what initiatives they launch or who they appoint to executive spots. They can become overly cautious. That can be very stifling and bad for the agency.

But politically, they never want to give Congress ammunition to sabotage the confirmation.

As for Meslon. Well, he was decent guy and a smart one at that. But agents thought the ex-federal prosecutor didn’t really understand the agency culture and the agents’ mindset.

As one veteran ATF agent told me: “A lot of guys thought he wasn’t the best fit. He was a nice man, but at times he could be arrogant. I don’t think he intended to come across that way. I kind of feel sorry for him.”

FBI Building in Miss. Named After Slain Civil Rights Workers and FBI Agent Who Investigated Case

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI building in Jackson, Miss.,officially has a pretty long name.

The building this week is being named after three civil rights workers killed by Klansmen 47 years ago, as well as the FBI agent who headed the probe, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported.

The paper reported that the James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Roy K. Moore Federal Building is located at 1220 Echelon Parkway in Jackson. Roy K. Moore is the FBI agent.

“We pushed for the naming because … (of) the history of our state during that time, the fact that these three young men gave their lives and the FBI helped find them and did so much background work for any convictions associated with them,” U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said, according to the paper. “This is part of the healing process.”

The three civil rights workers were killed June 21, 1964.

Feds Try to Block Mongols Motorcycle Gang From Using its Trademarked Logo or Name

atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The feds in L.A. are taking a novel approach to battling the violent Mongols motorcycle gang.

Prosecutors on Monday asked U.S. District Judge Otis Wright to block members of the gang from using its trademarked logo or using its name, the Los Angeles Times reported. A ruling in the government’s favor would make it the owner of the logo and name.

The paper reported that it was the first time the federal government has sought to control a gang’s identity through a court order.

The Times reported that the U.S. attorney’s office said the insignia — a pony-tailed man riding a chopper — is “very, very closely identified with the organization.” It said the office feels the move would further prevent the Mongols from operating.

“This patch is a central element of the identity of the gang. We’re trying to dismantle a criminal organization, and we’re trying to use whatever tools we can to do it,” Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said, according to the LA Times. “In this case it shows our determination to go after this organization as a whole — top to bottom leadership — and after the proceeds of criminal activity.”

While heading the gang, Ruben “Doc” Cavazos registered and trademarked the Mongols logo, Mrozek said.

An attorney for the Mongols told the Times that the government can’t legally do this.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

ATF Head Ken Melson Expected to Resign Under Pressure in Coming Days

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Kenneth Melson, acting head of ATF, is expected to resign under pressure in coming days, CNN reported.

At the same time, Andrew Traver, head of the Chicago ATF, who has been nominated by the White House to take over on a permanent basis, is set to meet Tuesday with Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr.  to talk about possibly stepping in as acting director pending the outcome of his confirmation process , according to media reports. The Wall Street Journal  had reported in recent days that the White House was expected to remove Melson.

The anticpacted resignation comes in the midst of what has turned into an ugly controversy over Operation Fast and Furious, the program that encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, all the with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartesl. Guns from the program have been linked to the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has led the charge, along with Sen. Chuck Grassleyd (R-Ia.), against the program, said at a hearing last week that Melson was “deep in the weeds” with the program and was regularly monitoring it.