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Portland Votes to Rejoin FBI’s JTTF — Sort Of

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

After endless debate, the Portland City Council in Oregon voted unanimously Thursday for its police department to rejoin the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force — sort of.

The city quit the JTTF in 2005, citing concerns that the FBI was violating civil rights. It was also concerned its officers might snoop on citizens and violate local laws. Then-police chief and mayor were also angry that they did not have access to the same classified information task force officers had.

But on Thursday, the council reached a compromise: It decided not to permanently assign manpower to the JTTF, but to get involved  with the anti-terrorism task force on an “as-needed basis” when it deemed the investigations worthy, The Oregonian reported.

Under the plan, the police chief will have the discretion to assign officers to investigations after consulting with the police commissioner, the Oregonian reported. Some community members were adamantly against the city having a relationship with the JTTF.

U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton praised the vote, The Oregonian reported.

The issue to rejoin bubbled up again late last year after the FBI set up a sting and busted a man who was plotting to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland.

FBI Says Violent Threats Against Lawmakers Set Record in 2010

house photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Politics can be a dirty game. It can also be a dangerous one.

The FBI reports that lawmakers were the target of more threats of violence in 2010 than in any other year on record, according to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

Some threats involved health care legislation, The Hill reported. And politicians from both sides of the isle were targets including Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The Hill reported the FBI opened, investigated and closed at least 26 threats against lawmakers.

Last March, The Hill reported, Pelosi got a call from a man who said: “I’m going to come down there and put a bullet in your a– when you leave.”

A McConnell staff member got a call last year from someone who said: “I’m going to kill you and your senator and your staff.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Time Magazine: How The G-Man Got His Groove Back

“They haven’t done everything perfectly. They’ve made mistakes. By and large, he has moved the FBI in the right direction.” — Glenn A. Fine, former Justice Dept. Inspector General in Time article on Robert Mueller

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller/fbi file photo

By Barton Gellman
Time

FBI Director Bob Mueller glanced at the black chronograph he wears Marine-style, the face inside his wrist. It was 7:38 a.m. Not quite time. He reviewed his inbox. Drummed a four-fingered staccato on the desk. Consulted his wrist again: 7:39.

Mueller had already slashed through the red leather briefing book that headquarters dispatched to his Georgetown home before dawn. The title embossed on the cover was simply “Director,” above the words “Top Secret/Contains Codeword Material.” Yellow highlights flagged the points Mueller wanted to probe.

An al-Qaeda affiliate was evading surveillance with a new covert channel of communication. Cyberintruders had breached a defense contractor’s firewall. The Tucson, Ariz., shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords had become a grotesque recruiting tool for antigovernment extremists. Turmoil in Bahrain had left FBI agents unable to serve a fugitive warrant. Egypt’s meltdown was causing trouble for a valuable counterintelligence source.

One of three deputy U.S. marshals shot in West Virginia had succumbed to his wounds. Two more federal officers, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, had been ambushed in northern Mexico, one fatally. Mexican authorities wanted access to FBI files, and Mueller had to decide how much to share. (See pictures of a Mexican drug gang’s “holy war.”)

Something more pressing was on Mueller’s mind on Feb. 17, when TIME shadowed him through much of his day. The director had locked his sights on Lubbock, Texas, and Spokane, Wash., where his agents were closing in on a pair of unrelated terrorist plots.

To read full article click here.

Oprah Rules! Prospective Blago Juror Will Get to Attend Taping of Oprah Show

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Oprah trumps all!

As you might recall the other day, a prospective juror in the retrial of ex-Ill. Gov Rod Blagojevich wanted off jury duty because she had four tickets to a May 10 taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” In May, the legendary show, which is taped in Chicago, is finished.

Earlier in the week, the judge and attorneys talked about possibly accommodating her by changing the court schedule that day. Then again, the judge expressed some skepticism about the importance of making it to the taping.

Well, the point is now moot.  The juror, known only as Juror 137,  got her wish. She’s won’t be serving, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune reported that prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to drop the woman known as Juror 137 “without any public discussion of her alleged hardship.”

The Tribune reported that the never-short-of-words defendant Rod Blagojevich said afterward that he envied the woman for not having to sit through his retrial.

“No, I would say eff-ing golden,” joked Blagojevich.

Jury selection, which entered Day 5 on Thursday,  is winding down. Opening statements are expected on Monday, the Trib reported.

Justice Dept. Gives Green Light to N.O. Police K-9 Unit After 6 Month Suspension


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Apparently it took a little Emily Post-like training to get the New Orleans Police K-9 unit on its best behavior.

The Justice Department has given the green light for the New Orleans Police Department to reactivate its canine unit following a six-month suspension, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

The Justice Department, which had been called in to review the police department operations, had recommended the suspension after it found that dog handlers in the K-9 unit weren’t able to control the dogs, which too often bit cooperative suspects, the paper reported.

The rate of dog bites was considered excessive for a K-9 unit, and some dogs were “almost completely uncontrollable,” the Picayune reported.

But now things are apparently better.

The paper noted that a police news release stated: “DOJ inspectors … stated that the dogs are now exceptionally trained and will undoubtedly be more effective in tracking down suspects and sniffing out illegal drugs.”

Atty. Gen. Holder Not Going Anywhere For Now

Eric Holder Jr./ticklethewire.com file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — It’s been anything but smooth sailing for Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. since he took the job on Feb. 3, 2009.  In fact, he’s often been a pinata for some key Republicans, who have bashed him at hearings time and again.

Still, despite the shuffling of people in the Obama administration, and the departure of some key figures, it appears Holder is staying put for the time being, according to Josh Gerstein of Politico.

Earlier in the week, he gave a pep talk to some 150 Justice Department employees and laid out his plan of attack in going after crime and terrorism.

“I’ve enjoyed my two years here, which is not to say that every day has been great. There have been disappointments, but there’ve also been substantial victories as well,” Holder told reporters, according to Politico. “My confidence, my faith in this department is constantly renewed as I interact with people in this department, and I see how dedicated they are — the sacrificing they do.”

“We have a long list of agenda items, and I will be pushing those over the next couple of years,” he said. “I’m happy. I’m content. My wife says I’ve got some more time. So long as she’s in the same place, I’ll be around.”

Politico reported that a senior Justice Department official said the move to prosecute Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others before a military commission has freed Holder to speak out.

“In some sense, KSM being finally over is liberating, and that’s why you’re seeing him out now doing other things that he has wanted to do all along as attorney general,” the official said, according to Politico.

“He has been working on other things near and dear to his heart as long as he’s been AG,” but they just always have “been overshadowed by KSM. That shadow is gone now,” said the official.

Editorial Urges Portland Police to Rejoin FBI’s JTTF Squad

fbi photo

By The Portland Tribune
Editorial

PORTLAND, Ore. — In 2005 the Portland City Council voted to pull out of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force – leaving not only Portland, but also the region, with a void of local engagement in investigating and preventing acts of terrorism.

That absence should end this week as the City Council considers a resolution that not only returns Portland police officers to the terrorism task force, but also sets a national model for ensuring that civil rights are protected and local and national laws are followed along the way.

If the City Council needs a reminder of why it is important to act, it need only consider a Beaverton-area resident’s plot late last year to detonate a bomb on the night of the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

But in Portland – a community that seemingly fears imagined threats to civil rights more than the direct threat of terrorism – elected leaders often make strange choices.

To read more click here.

Judge Rules Against Muslim Groups But Blasts Government

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

There was good news and bad news for Muslim activists who sued to get FBI files on their activities.

The bad news was that a federal judge in Santa Ana, Calif., ruled Wednesday that the groups cannot have access to most of the files because of national security issues, the Associated Press reported.

The consolation prize for the group was that the judge blasted the government for misleading the court about the existence of the files, AP reported.

“The government’s representations were then, and remain today, blatantly false,” Judge Cormac J. Carney wrote. “The government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the court.”

Six Muslim groups and five individuals sued the government in 2007 to gain access to records after they alleged the government was unlawfully targeting Muslims in Southern California, AP reported.